Answering the Question of How to Manage NFV Effectively with an vEPC

Next Generation Communications Blog

Answering the Question of How to Manage NFV Effectively with an vEPC

By: Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Contributor

The advantages to mobile operators of network functions virtualization (NFV) and moving to a virtualized evolved packet core (vEPC) have become clear, and mobile networks operators are pretty much sold on the technology in theory.

As the technology side has been figured out and operators begin to plan commercial deployments of NFV and vEPC, however, discussion is starting to move toward operational requirements and challenges. Mobile network operators need to figure out how best to manage these new virtual network functions (VNFs) and the NFV infrastructure, and also how to modify the existing network operations model when these VNFs are deployed.

“These are understandable concerns since clearly there will be additional operational issues when this NFV-MANO [management and orchestration] network architecture is deployed,” noted Keith Allan, Director IP Mobile Core Product Strategy, Alcatel-Lucent, in a recent TechZine posting, vEPC: How to achieve operational elegance.  

There are a number of new functional blocks and data repositories that come with this new model, including the MANO functions themselves, vEPC VNFs, element and network management systems (EMS/NMS), operational and business support systems (OSS/BSS), and NFV infrastructure.

For Allan, however, these concerns are real but solutions also exist for mobile network operators to deal with them.

Existing EMS/NMS can be combined together with an integrated NFV/SDN management solution and enable mobile operators to address NFV operational challenges while also being able to manage the existing purpose-built, product-based network using their current OSS/BSS, according to Allan.

This combined system, which Alcatel-Lucent business unit Nuage Networks and the Alcatel-Lucent CloudBand team are developing can deliver, enable workflow automation with push button VNF instantiation and elasticity, automates service chaining via SDN, and brings network function orchestration to coordinate multiple virtual and physical network functions.

How this is done is through dividing into three well-established management domains: virtual machine orchestration and VNF/VNFC life cycle management, network connectivity orchestration, and network function orchestration.

“This combined element and network management solution for NFV/SDN delivers the operational elegance that mobile operators need to reduce complexity,” noted Allan in his blog post, “and it opens the door for innovation to provide new services through automation.”

As operators move from testing to commercial rollout, such solutions will increasingly rise in importance.

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