Vodafone slashes costs of core network functions across Europe using VMware's telco cloud

Vodafone Group recently wrapped up the deployment of VMware's network virtual infrastructure across all of its 21 European business markets, which led to a 50% reduction in the cost of its core network functions.

With work finishing in Albania, Vodafone now has a single network architecture across its European markets thanks to VMware's telco cloud offering. The telco cloud infrastructure enables Vodafone to design, build, test and deploy next generation functions more securely and around 40% faster, according to Vodafone's internal analysis that was conducted last month.

While automation has led to job cuts, VMware points out that infrastructure automation limits the amount of manual intervention that's needed to operate Vodafone's networks, which is especially timely in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. VMware and Vodafone first started working on the project three years ago.

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VMware’s telco cloud infrastructure was deployed across more than 57 sites in Europe and 25 sites in its Africa, Asia and Oceania markets. The cloud-based infrastructure supports voice core, data core and service platforms on over 900 virtual network functions (VNFs.) Almost 50% of Vodafone’s core network nodes that provide voice and data services run on VMware’s NVI platform, vCloud NFV.

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As VMware has sought to make in-roads into the telco space over the past few years, Vodafone is a big customer win. It's also notable that VMware uses "network virtual infrastructure" in its press releases instead of network functions virtualization infrastructure (NFVi), the latter of which has been around for some time. Instead of making VNFs easier to onboard and use, multiple versions of NFVi have made VNFs from various vendors more difficult to onboard.

Tom Nolle, president of CIMI Corp., has maintained for some time that NFV has been off the rails almost since its inception in a white paper by ETSI eight years ago.

"I think it's NFV reborn, with complications," Nolle said via email, of VMware's network virtual infrastructure efforts. "The problem with NFV lies in a bad architectural model, and something that fundamental is hard to fix. I think it’s clear that VMware (and Vodafone) want to pull NFV into the cloud age for real, but they’re constrained by all the choices that made up that bad architectural model. 

"The problem really isn’t NFVi, whatever you choose to call it. It’s a lack of abstraction, and abstraction is the key to virtualization. You need to model everything, fit implementations into models so that they support a common set of external interfaces, and then make the models explicit by representing them in something like TOSCA.  I think VMware/Vodafone will try to ease in that direction."

Whatever it's called, Vodafone Group is no doubt thankful to have at least modernized its network en route, perhaps, to a better abstraction model that Nolle espouses.

“Vodafone wants to be the industry’s leading digital telco, and we are pleased with the progress made to introduce modern cloud-based technology and automation," said Vodafone CTO Johan Wibergh, in a statement.