By Charlie Ashton
Back in June, we blogged about China Telecom’s evaluation of the Wind River Titanium Server network virtualization platform. Based on a conversation with Ou Liang, Senior Engineer, Head of NFV Infrastructure Technology and Solutions at the Guangzhou Research Institute of China Telecom, we summarized the results of this evaluation.
At that time, Mr. Ou told us that China Telecom had completed their evaluation of Titanium Server as a platform capable of hosting a range of Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) applications. He explained China Telecom’s conclusions that, unlike a community OpenStack platform, Titanium Server delivers the robustness, high-availability and high performance that is critical for their NFV deployments.
In this post, we’ll share an update on the work that China Telecom has done since June. In that time, they have completed a Proof-of-Concept of an end-to-end virtual IMS (vIMS) application hosted on Titanium Server, analyzing the performance, stability and scalability of the complete stack. We’ll discuss the quantifiable business impacts that they have achieved in this PoC.
Some background on China Telecom
China Telecommunications Corporation is a Chinese state-owned telecommunications company. It is the largest fixed-line service provider and the third largest mobile telecommunications provider in China, supplying 4G mobile, broadband and data center services to over 200 million of subscribers (both consumers and enterprises).
China Telecom sees network virtualization as a means to accelerate the deployment of fixed-line and mobile broadband functions such as vEPC, vIMS, VoLTE, video quality assurance and IoT. With their massive subscriber base, they anticipate that faster time-to-market will quickly translate into significant improvements in Average Revenue per User (ARPU) while network virtualization helps to reduce their operational expenses.
Mr. Ou is based at the China Telecom Guangzhou R&D Center, which is one of three China Telecom R&D centers performing research on new technologies for both data communications and mobile communications. The SDN/NFV project team at this center is responsible for technical evaluations and standards definition relating to NFV. The Titanium Server PoC was driven jointly by the Data Communications and Wireless Communications departments, with the goals of assessing the readiness of the vIMS solution, developing the technical standards, gaining experience on NFV deployments and supporting the eventual production launch of this function.
Critical challenges for NFV infrastructure
China Telecom believes that open-source software, compatible with open industry standards and based on open architectures, offers compelling benefits for NFV deployments. But they recognize a couple of significant challenges to this open-source philosophy.
First, open-source projects like OpenStack have traditionally been driven by the needs of enterprise IT applications. Virtualized and cloudified telecom applications, however, have much more stringent needs in areas like reliability, security and performance. Vanilla open-source projects are incapable of meeting these requirements, so challenge #1 is to find a supplier with the unique expertise to enhance and customize open-source software to create a telecom-focused solution that retains full compatibility with all the relevant open standards.
Second, China Telecom’s business revolves around the operation of vast telecom networks and the delivery of high-quality services. They are not, nor do they want to be, a software company that develops and maintains virtualization software platforms. Hence their second challenge, which is find a vendor with the expertise, scale and support infrastructure to reliably deliver and maintain the software platforms that they need as they deploy NFV.
Third, with an aggressive schedule for deploying NFV, China Telecom doesn’t have time to wait for a vendor to work out the bugs in its infrastructure solution and delay them through multiple product iterations. They need a solution that’s ready for deployment now and already proven in the market.
Why Wind River?
Mr. Ou was very clear about his four main reasons for selecting Wind River Titanium Server as a third party platform for NFV infrastructure evaluation and their subsequent PoC.
First, China Telecom themselves will leverage third-party NFV infrastructure vendors to achieve “three layer decoupling”, rather than a vertically-oriented NFV solution.
Second, China Telecom needs a commercial, carrier grade NFV Platform that delivers significantly higher performance than a vanilla open-source Cloud Platform when running a vIMS Virtual Network Function (VNF).
Third, China Telecom was encouraged by the wide range of products from industry-leading partners that have been validated through the Titanium Cloud ecosystem, like Huawei’s vIMS used in the PoC. The validation process that Wind River’s partners are required to follow guarantees interoperability with all the relevant open standards. This enables China Telecom to achieve the highly efficient three layer decoupling that is fundamental to their NFV strategy.
Fourth, China Telecom confirmed through their earlier evaluation that Titanium Server delivers the service reliability, security and performance that they need. As Mr. Ou explained at the completion of their evaluation, “Our testing requirements demanded ultra-reliability, robust and real-time forwarding performance in which high availability is a chief consideration concerning NFVI. Titanium Server helped us explore whether the hierarchical decoupling of the NFV infrastructure could be feasible. It also delivered on the key need for a commercial ready NFVI platform to be the foundation for our demanding test scenarios.”
The vIMS PoC
For their vIMS PoC, China Telecom tested virtual IMS VNFs from Ericsson, Huawei, Nokia and ZTE, all hosted on third party NFV platforms including Titanium Server. The end-to-end application ran on industry-standard white-box servers from Intel and other manufacturers. This three layer decoupling enabled them to readily test and validate interoperability between vendors as well as compatibility with open standards.
Testing of this multi-vendor environment focused on stability, robustness, real-time forwarding performance and maintenance. The performance goals were impressive: two million simultaneous users and 2.4 million Busy-Hour Call Attempts (BHCA).
As well as the purely technical aspects of the PoC, China Telecom also paid close attention to how their various vendors worked together to ensure the smooth execution of the complex test plan.
The end result: quantifiable benefits
Having completed this PoC, China Telecom was able to report the following key results:
- They reduced their development time by three months compared to alternative NFVI solutions;
- They cut their testing and qualification costs by 30%;
- They achieved increased productivity and collaboration within their engineering staff.
When you’re a service provider as large as China Telecom, these kinds of time and cost savings translate into massive ROI improvements as soon as the solution is deployed.
We’re delighted by the success of our collaboration with China Telecom on their vIMS use case and we’re very grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with China Telecom Guangzhou R&D Center. We look forward to future joint programs as they expand their NFV deployments to include other functions such as potentially virtual EPC.