New Trends of Mobile Communications: Network Functions Virtualization and Software-defined Networking.

August 2014

Analytical Report (full version)

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Analytical Report (full version)

New Trends of Mobile Communications: Network Functions Virtualization and Software-defined Networking.
New Trends of Mobile Communications: Network Functions Virtualization and Software-defined Networking.
August 2014

New Trends of Mobile Communications: Network Functions Virtualization and Software-defined Networking.

August 2014

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Mobile operators can cut capital costs for 30-60% by transiting separate elements of radio access in the cloud, according to experts. Use of software-defined networking and network functions virtualization principles are in the governmental List of priority scientific tasks.


J’son & Partners Consulting presents main results of the research about new trends of mobile communications: Network functions virtualization (NFV) and Software-defined Networking (SDN). 


Prerequisites for SDN and NFV



A lot of experts are calling the current situation in the networking industry as “critical and revolutionary”.  Closed solutions dominating on the market are “black boxes” for apps, while comparability of vendors’ solutions is provided on the level of interfaces. Networks are too complicated, it is very difficult to manage them and as a result this decreases their safety. Obviously, all these factors restrain further development of networks and apps that operate in these networks.


Main prerequisites for development of SDN and NFV are fast growth of data traffic and number of devices connected to the network.


Traffic is becoming more diverse. At the end of 1990, the core of data transfer was files that do not require any special requirements to the channel, only the speed. In the middle of 2000, ways to provide quality service (QoS), latency etc were prior requirements. This happened first of all due to the changes in structure of users’ traffic, where Real Time Communications, RTC prevailed – VoIP, videoservices, etc. Prioritization of traffic became real problem and necessity. In some cases, the priority should be done for ftp-protocol in some for SIP etc.


In mobile communications an installation of additional macro cells (base stations) do not facilitate growth of throughput capacity and capacity of RAN after reaching a certain limit. That is why the next step is to use small cells (femto- and picocells). As a result, configuration of large scale networks is becoming a very difficult task that requires serious changes of construction principles, use and networks’ management.


SDN and NFV concepts


The main essence of SDN is the physical separation of the level of network management (network control plane) on the level of data (forwarding functions) due to the transfer of management functions (routers, switches, and so on. N.) In the applications running on a single server (controller). 


As a result, should get a flexible, manageable, adaptive and cost-effective architecture, which is able to effectively adapt to the transfer of large heterogeneous traffic flows.


The basic ideas of SDN include:


  • division of passing traffic (data plane), and signaling / control (control plane);
  • substantial simplification of network element level data plane;
  • a single, unified, independent of vendor interface between the management level and the level of data transmission;
  • logically centralized management of the network, carried out by the controller to set the network operating system and implemented on top of network applications; • virtualization of physical network resources.


In 2006 specialists from Stanford and Berkeley Universities determined basic ideas for SDN. The researches initiated by them found support among large operators and internet companies (Google, Deutsche Telekom, Facebook, Microsoft, Verizon и Yahoo). As a result, consortium Open Networking Foundation (ONF) was formed in March 2011, its members' list is expanding, in 2013 over 100 were included, such as Brocade, Citrix, Oracle, Dell, Ericsson, HP, IBM, Marvell, NEC, VMware etc.


First of all, ONF is developing OpenFlow protocol, implemented the cooperation of controller with networks; still a lot of members are interested in more unified specifications. In April 2013 Cisco, Citrix and IBM established structure OpenDaylight.org, main goal is to launch open commonly available standard SDN based on free software.


By this, SDN is trying to develop two dimensions – networks’ management and transport and as a result to provide centralized management of network. NFV is focusing on networks’ services optimization inside the network due to the division of networks’ functions (for example DNS, caching etc) from implementation of hardware. It is considered that NFV allows to universalize software, speed up implementation of new networks’ functions and services and at the same time do not require refuse from deployed networks’ infrastructure.  


Virtualization and mobile communication – C-RAN concept – Cloud and Centralized radio access networks. In this case, remote radio heads, RRHs and antennas are being separated from main blocks (management modules) of baseband units; BBUs are being placed in base station hotel and being connected via fiber-optic cable with RRHs blocks (Illustration 1). Thus, operators can build cloud RAN networks by NFV principles by placing main functions of base stations, which are responsible for digital signal processing, synchronization, management, collection of statistic, in the cloud. Quite possible that such type of cloud and virtual radio access networks can change the balance of forces towards IT vendors.


Main implementation’s drivers and restraining factors


From operators point of view the interest towards SDN is connected with increasing effectiveness of networks’ equipment, decreasing costs, increase in networks’ safety and provision of opportunity to create new services and upload them in networks’ equipment.


Main drivers of SDN/NFV market development are:


  • Decrease of capital and operational costs, total cost of network


In case of mobile communications, if operator has developed fiber optic network, the economy on CAPEX is very sufficient. In this case, company can cut the capital costs till 60% by using C-RAN. On the opposite, the economy on CAPEX will be around 30%. The decrease of CAPEX, in particular, by decrease of basic blocks (BBUs). Same reason is lying in the base of OPEX decrease – by lower consumption of electricity and reducing costs on servicing. According to China Mobile estimations, “green” alternative in the form of cloud networks of radio access is decreasing costs on electricity for 71% in comparison with traditional networks.


According to NEC data, implementation of virtualized package core (vEPC) in terms of NFV concept, will allow operators of mobile communication to decrease total cost of networks’ ownership (TCO) (Illustration 2). 



  • Quickness of services implementation and adjustment


Virtual (software) ecosystem is primary more possible to be programmed rather than classical network. It is expected that this opportunity will allow to implement and adjust the service faster and left the current concept middleboxes behind – large number of soft and hardware in operators’ network that provide such service.


At the same time, one of the main restraining factors for SDN development is lack of unified standard and desire of vendors to impose their solution to the market, while such approach is against SDN principles. As a result, SDN is very unclear and potential consumers of software-constructed solutions are waiting for appearance of successful large projects in this field.




According to SDNCentral, global SDN market was $1.5 bln in 2013 and will reach $35.6 bln by 2018 (Illustration 3) at 24 times growth. By the end of the forecasted period, almost 40% of all costs for data transfer will be connected with SDN (Illustration 4). Research and Markets forecasted that the average yearly growth of global software-managed networks will be 151% by 2012-2016.




Situation with SDN in Russia


Surveys showed that around 2/3 of Russian specialists specified that interest to SDN is only theoretical. Meanwhile, use of software-defined network management principles and virtualization of networks services for creation of problem-oriented processing surroundings are in “The list of priority research tasks that require support from Federal centers for collective use of research equipment”. Task is aimed at development of networks’ and information technologies for construction of flexible, adjusted for research infrastructure, based on new concept of organization of networking surrounding and computing services.


To the most expected results belong: creation of high technological infrastructure for conducting researches in the field of computer networks on national level, development new generation of internet, approbation of solutions in the sphere of national informational surrounding safety and construction of platform of software-defined networking that provide high availability of resource, reorganization of networking services and networking infrastructure approved planning of resources.


Import replacement is a crucial task in Russia now due to the fact that share of networking equipment produced abroad reached over 90% and weakening cooperation with West. In this view, successful implementation of SDN projects gives chances to become a solid partner-leader on this IT market segment.


Center of applied research of computer networks was founded on the base of laboratory of Moscow State University in February 2013 (IT cluster Skolkovo Fund). The task of the Center is to conduct scientific researches in the sphere of networking technologies, including SDN. Rostelecom signed the contract with the center on engineering and creation of experienced segment of cloud platform for Data Processing Center based on SDN (July 2013). Rostelecom has started to work on implementation of SDN and NFV in May 2014. 


In Russia SDN and NFV are at the early stage of implementation. In order to speed up the readiness to commercial launch, the following measures should be taken:


  • Study and adaptation of legislation, technical terms and regulations;
  • Creation of science research associations of universities, laboratories, profile academic institutes, representative of telecom sphere, start ups, Russian developers;
  • Attraction of leading foreign experts to Russia in the sphere of SDN;
  • Involvement of Russian researches and experts in international projects regarding SDN.


Success of SDN in Russia and appearance of new market segment (software for networks’ apps) are depending on ICT market participants’ interest, first of all on: 


  • academic and industrial institutions;
  • regulator and other government structures;
  • domestic IT companies and operators.


Detailed results of the Research are presented in the full version of the Report:

Mobile communication new trends: Network Functions Virtualization, NFV and Software‑defined networking, SDN








1. Prerequisites for SDN


2. Definition of SDN, concept and architecture NFV and SDN


3. StandardizationSDN


4. SDN market structure


5. Main drivers and constraining factors for implementation of NFV and SDN

  5.1.Main drivers

      5.1.1.   Networks’ infrastructure simplification

      5.1.2.   Decrease of capital and operational costs

      5.1.3.   Implementation of new services

  5.2. Constraining factors

  5.3.Key market players - SDN


  5.5.Networks’ vendors

  5.6.IT vendors


6. NFV and SDN implementation projects in the world


7. Vendors’ solutions and transit on SDN strategy

  7.1.       HP

  7.2.       Intel

  7.3.       Alcatel-Lucent

  7.4.       Ericsson

  7.5.       Huawei

  7.6.       Cisco

  7.7.       Citrix Systems

  7.8.       NEC

  7.9.       RAD

  7.10.              Dell

  7.11.              Brocade

  7.12.              Pluribus Networks

  7.13.              Oracle

  7.14.              VMWare

  7.15.              JuniperNetworks

  7.16.              Nokia


 8. SDN in Russia


9. Forecast




List of companies mentioned in Report


Affirmed Networks




Arista Networks


Big Switch




China Mobile




Citrix Systems


Connected Inc.


Deutsche Telekom



Extreme Networks









IP Infusion


Juniper Networks

MagnaSwitch Networks








Nuage Networks




Pluribus Networks




Red Hat




Vello Systems





Wind River


Globus Telecom



Center of applied research of computer networks


This Information Note is Prepared by J’son & Partners Consulting, We strive to provide factual and prognostic data that fully reflect the situation and are available to us before issuing the material. J’son & Partners Consulting reserves the right to revise the data after publication of new official information by the market players.


J’son & Partners Consulting presents main results of the research about new trends of mobile communications: Network functions virtualization (NFV) and Software-defined Networking (SDN).