A greater role for mobile devices in NFV and SDN

Phil Marshall/Tolaga Research
06 Mar 2014

Network function virtualization (NFV) and software defined networking (SDN) are the new hype-children of the mobile industry. Both NFV and SDN are built on cloud computing and IT virtualization principles with the promise of increased infrastructure utilization and service agility.

Many service providers have yet to embrace NFV and SDN because they disrupt existing network architectures and operational models. While some operators like AT&T, DT, Inmarsat, Softbank, Telefonica, Telstra and Verizon are aggressively pursuing NFV/SDN initiatives, it will take five years or more before fully fledged solutions are widely adopted in the marketplace; unless they are accelerated by OTT players.

Currently the mobile industry is particularly focused on standardization and open source development initiatives for NFV and SDN solutions, such as those pursued by ETSI, the 3GPP and the OpenStack community. These initiatives are particularly focused on the evolution of mobile networks, service platforms and software systems, but underestimate the role of advanced devices such as smartphones, M2M units and tablet computers, by essentially treating them as intelligent end-points.

Smart devices should be virtualized as part of the NFV/SDN environments, to capitalize on their compute, memory, and I/O capabilities. The App Store phenomenon demonstrates the compute power of smartphones as does the availability of low cost memory by companies like SanDisk, (such as its 128GB SDMicro memory chip). In addition, smart devices provide the “ultimate I/O” for mobile services by providing both network connectivity and user interfaces.

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