Network Function Virtualization for Evolved Packet Core

We recently hosted a webinar titled Network Function Virtualization (NFV) for Evolved Packet Core (EPC). In this webinar, we discussed how Network Equipment Manufacturers (NEMs) can leverage the concept of cloud to develop and deploy multi-tenant, virtualized EPC solutions. Our experts also provided exhaustive insights into the various possible architectures, how to implement network routing for cloud and how to develop software based solutions that can be upgraded without downtime.

R Ezhirpavai, Assistant Vice President, Technology and Rajat Kapoor, Senior Product Manager, at Aricent answered some of the questions asked during the webinar. Please click here to view the archived version of the webinar

When do you expect carriers to deploy cloud EPC in live network?
Many carriers in the US and APAC regions have already floated RFI for cloud based EPC deployment. Network Equipment Manufacturers are actively developing and testing cloud based EPC solution, and we feel that deployments can happen as early as the latter half of the next year.

What do you think on the performance of the cloud EPC, taking into account that hardware is always faster?
Yes, we feel that even though dedicated hardware is always faster, the gap in performance is fast diminishing. Cloud EPC offers elastic scalability. Dedicated hardware based solutions have an upper limit on their performance, however, due to the elastic scalability the overall performance with higher number of servers is better in cloud based EPC as compared to a non-cloud based solution.

In your view, operators from which countries can take advantage of this concept?
Any operator can take advantage of this concept. But given its multi-tenancy and multi-country reach, it is also very well suited for those operators that cover a wide geography presence in many countries.

Where the bottleneck is commonly found? Is it in the EPC, the backhaul, or the RAN?
Bottlenecks can occur anywhere in the network, and it is a constant endeavor by NEMs to address and reduce such bottlenecks. To end that, innovative technologies such as Cloud EPC, SDN/Openflow and Cloud RAN/baseband pooling have been developed to not only ensure that there are no bottlenecks but to also keep costs and complexity at a minimum level.

There are different technologies being discussed e.g., WiFi based solutions for removing access side bottleneck. Solutions for offload are discussed for backhaul bottlenecks. For core network bottlenecks, cloud based EPC is being considered.

Assuming a similar hardware footprint between bare metal and virtualized deployment scenarios, what is the performance impact (% decrease) on the virtualized scenario?
The percentage decrease would depend on various factors – technology or implantation form used for virtualization, virtualization middleware used, hardware etc. So it is not defined value, but with various advances made in this area, the performance impact has been contained to a very minimal level

Is there any actual study on CAPEX savings compared to traditional EPC hardware?
The CAPEX saving is not just realized in terms of saving on hardware cost but also the savings accrued by eliminating the need for managing multiple sites. Savings can also be realized by optimizing hardware, for example, if an operator migrates to high end routers, switches and servers when shifting to cloud, the total number of network elements required would reduce drastically. Thus, huge savings can be realized, but the exact details vary from one deployment to other.

Why did you pick cloud EPC first rather than other parts of the network such as IMS?
We have comprehensive offerings in the IMS space and we are also investing in IMS cloud. Given the extremely rapid proliferation of LTE, we see a clear need in the market for a cloud based EPC solution. VoLTE is still picking up, but demand for high bandwidth data is increasing every day. Hence immediate need for operators is cloud based solutions for data access before addressing cloud based voice call support. Operators and NEMs are always looking for new ways to reduce the cost and complexity of deploying a LTE network. This not only helps in maximizing revenue but also helps in enhancing customer experience.

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