With the advent of 5G/IoT era, the communications industry is embracing a new rapid development period. In this context, a series of emerging businesses came into being, such as 4G video, virtual reality (VR), live streaming, driverless cars, and smart street lamp, bringing massive new market opportunities. However, traditional operators have to face the fierce competition from internet enterprises who are developing dramatically in new business eras by virtue of their technology innovations and quick response capabilities. Moreover, with the population of video services, revenues of operators also structurally change with more traffic revenues than voice revenues. However, operators do not get more benefits from traffic, and the communications network has become a low-value traffic transmission pipeline.
How to construct a high-value but low-cost communications network?
Challenges of traffic: Video services based on smart terminals are becoming more and more popular, raising booming demands for Mobile Internet traffic. In addition, the emergence of live streaming, driverless cars, and other real-time services also requires ultra-low latency. In order to address increasingly urgent needs of large bandwidth and low latency, telcos have got a consensus that the network architecture needs transformation to build a DC-centric (Data Center) layered network supporting multi-service deployment. Layered DC realizes the separation of control plane and forwarding plane. The network functions (NFs) of forwarding plane with strong user perception are deployed at edge DC nearby users, which NFs used for signaling control or centralized operation and maintenance (O&M) are deployed at regional DC or central DC. Therefore, it improves user experiences while achieves centralized control and highly-efficient O&M at the same time.
Approaches to reduce costs: The cost of dedicated communication equipment used by the traditional network is very high. Facing the rapid development of traffic services, telcos are suffering from increasing hardware costs caused by the legacy expansion mode as well as more complicated and costly O&M as a result of the more and more complicated network. Due to the easy vendor lock-in of dedicated equipment, it is impossible to reduce such cost, so a more economical mode for telcos is to build networks based on generic IT equipment. Open architecture will become an important feature of the future network. OpenStack is the open source software used most widely and has become the de facto standard of the virtualization field. Building OpenStack-based cloud network is a mainstream choice for ensuring the openness of architecture.
Service innovation as key competitiveness: Internet companies have high operational efficiency and fast OTT service innovation, while traditional operators often need several months to launch services, which is obviously disadvantageous in the highly competitive Internet innovation. As a result, operators need more efficient service management processes and rapid market response mechanisms.
SDN/NFV technology is the key to operators’ network transformation
With the development of cloud computing technology, SDN / NFV virtualization technology has become the key to promote the transformation of operator networks. Through SDN / NFV technology, telcos can build a shared resource layer based on generic IT hardware supporting the flexible deployment of various upper-layer applications. At the same time, a DC-centric distributed architecture based on SDN technology enables a more automated network, resulting in more efficient network management.
At present, SDN / NFV technology has been gradually formed and entered the commercial deployment stage, and global mainstream operators are actively promoting the launch of cloudification. Some survey report shows that by 2020, major telcos in Europe and the United States are expected to spend 157 billion US dollars in the field of SDN / NVF.
What kind of cloud platform is more suitable for telcos?
High performance: Since its inception in the 1980s, mobile communications have evolved from 1G to 4G, from analog to digital and from voice to data, and have ten thousand times growth of network rate. The average rate of future 5G network can reach 10Gbps, about 100 times more than that of the current 4G network. In order to support such a high-speed transmission, the communication network infrastructure layer has to be enhanced in forwarding speed, delay, user connection capability, and traffic density. This is a high-performance network requirement that many open-source cloud products or cloud platforms positioned in the IT industry cannot address as typical IT scenarios do not take it into consider.
High reliability: NFV technology has brought tremendous changes to the communication network. It has many advantages such as network flexibility, resource sharing and cost reduction, but also poses challenges to network reliability. Compared with the traditional network, the layered decoupling of NFV will result in the reduction of end-to-end reliability of the overall service. For example, the reliability of dedicated telecom hardware is 99.999%, while that of generic IT hardware is 99.9%. The system-wide reliability of NFV is limited to the reliability of each layer, while layered decoupling is easy to produce a single point of failure; the new virtualization software layer also brought a new point of failure; resource sharing will lead to resource preemption problems. Therefore, the cloud platform for telecommunications networks needs full consideration and comprehensive reinforcement on reliability.
Smooth evolution: In the process of the transformation of traditional network, on the one hand, it is necessary to consider the smooth transition of legacy networks to provide assurance in terms of service continuity and security, and in particular, requiring extensive experience in network deployment and full use of legacy equipment, to protect existing investments and reduce the cost of operators' transformation. On the other hand, it is also a must to consider the sustainable development in the future. Cloud-based microservice architecture is the future trend. The framework for transformation should fully support the long-term evolution and be flexible in adapting to the hybrid network during the intermediate transition period.
ZTE next-gen cloud platform TECS lead the telco cloud age
As the world's leading provider of integrated communications solutions, ZTE, with more than 30 years of in-depth understanding of the communications industry, has introduced the Tulip Elastic Cloud System (TECS), a carrier-grade open source cloud platform. It supports to construct a cloud environment based on generic IT hardware, supports global resource scheduling, elastic capacity scalability, and flexible network adjustment, and fully support the flexible deployment of upper-layer IT and CT applications. In addition, it provides IaaS service operation capabilities, including a componentized microservice platform, fast iterative service development model and smart big data based analytics, achieving rapid service onboarding and innovation. Moreover, TECS has comprehensively enhanced its performance, reliability and architecture advancement to help operators better meet the challenges of the 5G / IoT era.
Open architecture: Layered decoupling is one of the main goals of carrier network transformation, so as to realize the autonomous selection of software and hardware products at all levels. ZTE has been proactive in encouraging openness. On the one hand, as a major contributor to open source communities such as OpenStack, ZTE actively and directly promotes the development of open platforms. On the other hand, it actively integrates mainstream open source software into its own products, to help open source projects to mature. For operator customers, they get a fully open system architecture. ZTE's new generation of cloud platform TECS is based on the mainstream open source projects such as OpenStack and Kubernetes and provides standard interfaces to achieve comprehensive compatibility and unified management of multi-vendor hardware devices, heterogeneous resource pools, IT/CT applications, and third-party public clouds. At present, ZTE TECS has cooperated with multiple vendors to complete compatibility tests, and has established open labs in many places to provide pre-integrated services, actively promoting the layered decoupling of telecom networks, so as to accelerate the establishment of an industrial ecosystem.
Carrier-grade enhancement: In order to meet the high requirements of telecom industry, TECS has been comprehensively enhanced based on open source software. It leverages network acceleration technologies such as FPGA, DPDK and FD.io, storage acceleration technologies such as all-flash array and RDMA, and computing acceleration technologies such as NUMA binding, huge page, and real-time KVM, to ensure the performance of cloud network comparable to that of physical equipment. At the same time, it provides a variety of cross-regional disaster recovery methods such as "dual-live" and "multi-live". When an exception occurs in the system, non-disruptive migration of important services can be realized. Also, it can automatically detect and repairs faults, and carry out other intelligent processing, thus ensuring more than 99.999% carrier-grade reliability.
Service-oriented: In today's highly competitive Internet OTT business, operators need both improvement in efficiency and capability of business innovation to seize market opportunities. TECS offers a service component factory based on field models and a service release platform supporting continuous delivery (CD), to achieve rapid service definition and automated release, shortening the TTM from months to days.
Continuous evolution: TECS provides containerized services based on Docker + Kubernetes. It is a componentized PaaS platform which provides underlying support for microservice-based software architecture and fully distributed deployment, so that upper layer network functions can be assembled flexibly, network services can be released anytime, and network O&M and service operation can be flexibly self-governed. It addresses different network application scenarios and differentiated service requirements, promoting operators’ digital transformation evolving to cloud native.
With leading technology and deep understanding of the telecom field, ZTE actively promotes the transformation of telecom networks in the world and has accumulated rich experience in cloud deployment. As of the third quarter of 2017, ZTE TECS has deployed more than 280 cloud projects around the world in Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America, conducting in-depth cooperation with Telefonica, VEON, velcom, China Mobile, China Telecom, China Unicom and other global mainstream operators.