How NTT’s NetroSphere is Extending the Boundaries of NFV


At a time when carriers are looking at increasing their networking productivity while at the same time – Network Function Virtualization or NFV is majorly gaining ground and it is positioned as a great tool to help operators do more with less. In such a scenario, NTT is driving innovation in the form of NetroSphere and creating a unique value proposition for carriers – one that can help in extending the boundaries of NFV infrastructure.

Traditionally, network infrastructure has been built with purpose-built equipment specially designed for individual functions. Much of this purpose-built equipment is provided by particular vendors as all-in-one products that include the hardware, software and its operating system.

Speaking as part of Mobile World Congress 2016 – session on “The New Digital Operator” – Masakatsu Fujiwara, Head of European R&D Representative Office, NTT said that the future networks must be highly adaptive in nature in order to be more productive.

“In a conventional network scenario, it follows ‘Silo Structure’ wherein we have Application, Hyperviser and Hardware all working in Silos. As a negative effect of such silos – the initiative of functional enhancements is taken by vendors. We have ‘resource in-efficiency’ when we are unable to share unused resources, between functions, locations and hardware units,” he explained.

In order to achieve high level of reliability and performance required by carriers, each piece of equipment must contain various duplicate backup parts, must be fitted with system management functions such as monitoring and switchover, and must be big enough to handle large capacities.

All of which leads to high power consumption, continued high prices, and difficulty in quick functional enhancement to respond to changing business requirements. In addition, large-scale systems where modules are tightly coupled have inefficiency in resource usage and system life span. Vacant resource of a module in a certain system cannot be shared with the other systems. As a result, the whole system may face end of life – even when a single sub-device reaches its End of Life.


NetroSphere – Extending the Boundaries of NFV

The main idea in the NetroSphere concept is the division of functions. Not limited to decoupling software components from equipment, it pursues modularization as much as possible, ultimately at the sub-device level such as the CPU and memory. These modules will be distributed in locations that are optimal for each type of them, and prepared to be used as resource pool. Then, they will be virtually assembled to form a virtual system to provide required functions. In this way, we can offer network slices required by service providers.

Breaking up the functions of conventional large-scale equipment into modules will enable a greater diversity of suppliers to participate in the market and hence widen the selection of available products.

Using modules as shared resources will enable more resource efficiency in achievement of required capacity and redundancy since the pieces can be added or removed to fit the demand proportionally, and can be focally replaced if they fail.

Moving Ahead with NetroSpehere

In order to achieve the goal of NetroSphere, the business structure of wide range of players in the telecommunications industries should be changed. In this sense, NTT is looking forward to collaborate with many partners, especially with other carriers that can share the same vision and common issues.

NTT is also willing to play an initiative role to develop uniform standards for common network functional requirements among carriers in order to create together the new market of modularized and general-purpose built products that can be used to lay the foundations for future networks.

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