The run-up to 5G is pushing service providers' move to cloud native-based architectures, and cloud native NFV is playing a key role in that migration.
While service providers have kicked the tires on cloud native architectures for a while now, David Bolan, senior analyst at Dell’Oro Group, said 5G was the compelling use case for making cloud native happen.
"The 5G service-based architecture needs to have a cloud native strategy," Bolan said. "Cloud native gets us to the point where it enables us to provide a resilient network because the cloud native architecture should be stateless and dataless. That means you could lose a VNF (virtual network function) and then spin up a new VNF without losing any data and the user never knows it. It also enables network slicing that might not be done in a non cloud-native environment.
"It's for resiliency but it also, especially with the EPC (evolved packet core) control plane and user plane separation, allows you to move this stuff to the edge."
Cloud native also fosters automation as well, which is beneficial to DevOps teams, Boland said.
"They can work on the new system and spin it up on the side before they go live with it," he told FierceTelecom. "There's a lot that cloud native enables."
Cloud-native network functions virtualization (NFV) lays the groundwork for 5G while also providing benefits in today's networks. Virtualization (NFV) revenues grew to 16% of the VoLTE market in the first quarter of this year, and are projected to account for more than 30% of the market one year from now, according to a report by Dell'Oro Group.
The VoLTE market consists of session border controllers, voice application servers, and the IMS core including call session control functions and home subscriber servers.
"To me the surprising thing is the acceleration of NFV," Bolan said of the report. "It's taking off. We did a five-year forecast back in January and I did not forecast NFV going up as fast as it has. I think the leading service providers that are spinning up for 5G are really accelerating the NFV market."
With AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint having NFV front and center in their network blueprints, it's no surprise that U.S. service providers were leading the NFV pack, but other regions are moving aggressively to NFV including China, South Korea, Japan, Scandinavia, and the Middle East, according to the report.
"There's no doubt about it that Verizon and AT&T are pushing NFV as well as Sprint and T-Mobile," Bolan said. "All four carriers in the U.S. are aggressively pushing the NFV strategy."
Nokia ranked as the top VoLTE vendor in the report. Other vendors that play in this space include Cisco, Huawei, Mavenir, Metaswitch, Oracle, Ribbon Communications and ZTE.
"It's really fragmented because some of them may only do voice application service and nothing else," Bolan said of the VoLTE vendors. "Some of them may do session border control and nothing else. Nokia, Huawei, ZTE and Ericsson are the ones that participate in all of the segments that we call out in our report."
NFV, along with software-defined networking, is seen as a key element to the migration to cloud based, automated, hybrid networks, but implementing it can be disruptive and complex in the current network environments.
"That's the advantage that a full line supplier, or an end-to-end supplier, has because they can offer a preintegrated, pretested solution that can get an operator up and running faster instead of trying to integrate all of the best of breeds in each category," Bolan said. "That could take time and you may not have the talent in your organization to do that.
"I believe that the Ericssons, the Nokias and Huaweis have a competitive advantage in getting a service provider up and running faster. And they make it simpler because they take the burden of getting it up and running for you with their professional services teams."