Using Network Functions Virtualization
to maximize the benefits
of SDN

With the dramatic growth of network usage comes the reality of near-constant change. Beyond the cost of adding new boxes, operating expenses are rising as the cost of managing more complex networks increases. To keep up with the pace, mobile network operators are turning towards SDN to help deploy, provision and manage new services and capacity demands in a way that not only reduces complexity, but cost as well. And they’re looking towards Network Functions Virtualization to get started.

Mobile network operators around the globe are gearing up to take advantage of Software Defined Networking (SDN) and reap its promised benefits. In fact, a recent SDN survey from Informa Telecoms and Media revealed that 47% of the operators who responded feel that SDN is essential to the future of their networks1. They’re looking to SDN to deliver new levels of network flexibility and scalability. And they’re seeking to transform those new levels of performance into new service offerings and ultimately new revenue streams.

To accommodate all of today’s data demands, plus the rapidly evolving offerings of the future, there’s a need for the network to function as a platform—open, dynamic and flexible. SDN promises to provide this openness and flexibility allowing mobile operators to move away from being an access-only provider to one that offers a wide array of revenue-generating services. Utilizing the network as a platform allows providers to quickly and easily introduce new features, capabilities and services that they can monetize accordingly. This approach will also allow providers to create unique user experiences that meet subscribers’ rising expectations of more personalized service.

Virtualization is the starting point

If you’re ready to jump aboard the SDN bandwagon, you might be wondering where to begin. The answer is to start with virtualization. Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) is a key part of a service provider’s broader SDN strategy. While NFV and SDN are often seen as separate technologies, the reality is that the two are highly complementary and it is in combination that they deliver the most value. NFV allows for the deployment of network components as software via virtual machines. This allows mobile operators to replace huge numbers of dedicated proprietary servers with a smaller set of commoditized virtual IT platforms.

There are already early implementations of Network Functions Virtualization that are resulting in more cost-effective operations and faster, more efficient deployment. For instance, ACG Research recently compared a virtualized MME/SGSN deployment to a traditional standalone appliance-based solution2. In its analysis, ACG documented the benefits of the virtual implementation, which included:

  •   54% lower TCO
  •   65% lower OpEx
  •   73% less environmental cost
  •   63% less operations, administration and maintenance cost

Virtualizing network functions is the first step towards building an agile network and truly leveraging SDN. Virtualization not only provides quantifiable benefits, it allows providers to easily and quickly add capacity while dramatically lowering the operating costs associated with running their networks. With an agile network, providers can deliver more data, more efficiently and pioneer new revenue streams while increasing customer satisfaction along the way.

1 Mobile SDN: Resistance is Futile, Informa Telecoms, 2013

2 The Business Case for a virtual Mobile Control Gateway, ACG Research, 2013



Software Defined Networking (SDN) is quickly becoming an important strategy for companies looking to improve operational simplicity. Read the latest on how companies are transforming the nature of their networks with SDN.

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