Consolidate, Consolidate, Consolidate

Many telecom applications are actually built up from multiple smaller sub-applications, often running on their own server in a rack, ATCA or otherwise. These servers run on multi-core processors, depending on the age of the last refresh this could be a dual, quad core or more. This is of course nothing new, what's new is how virtualization can improve server utilization.

First of all, todays multi-core processors are upwards of 8 cores, such as a Freescale p4080, or 24 logical cores with a dual Intel Westmere configuration. However, each individual sub-application can not use this much horse power and hence the new, shiny multi-core processor may go partially un-used. Un-used, unless you consolidate multiple of these sub-applications onto these shiny processors.

And that is exactly what virtualization through a hypervisor gives you. If the original configuration was using 4 sub-application on 4 dual core servers, then now we can try to fit these 4 applications on one high core-count multi-core server. And the good news is that the effort to perform this consolidation is often very minor. The applications and operating systems will migrate effortlessly, the one important question to answer is how each application gets access to devices, usually ethernet ports. And there are many technical ways to resolve that.

The added benefit of this consolidation is that the application configuration becomes less tied to the hardware, so much more flexible business models are possible, where the hardware is truly COTS and the telecom applications are configured onto this hardware through a configurable virtualization (Hypervisor) layer. With configurable here I mean that the designer (or the customer) can decide how many cores each application gets, so the final software load is very tuneable to changing network conditions. 

The IT-people under us may be wondering why this is new, they have been consolidating for years. What is new is that telecom applications can often not accept the penalty incurred by full virtualization like in an IT hypervisor. They need low latency, determinism (low jitter) and full device performance. An embedded hypervisor maintains these real-time characteristics, without sacrificing flexibility.