Nokia wants to build data centres for mobile operators

Nokia Airframe server
Nokia has launched its own servers, and is hoping mobile operators will use them to host future services. Image: Nokia

Competition among vendors to help mobile operators virtualize their networks is heating up

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2 June 2015 | 0

Nokia wants to help mobile network operators launch new services and cut their costs with a new range of servers, switches and storage they can use to virtualise their networks.

Enterprises have already adopted virtualisation and cloud-based IT infrastructures, and now telecommunications operators are looking at doing the same thing. Meanwhile equipment vendors like Nokia are increasingly offering operators the hardware and software to provide telephony, messaging and mobile broadband as virtualised services.

Telecommunications operators instigated the move away from dedicated, proprietary equipment to virtualised hardware. A group including AT&T, Verizon, China Mobile, Orange and Deutsche Telekom proposed a concept called network functions virtualisation (NFV), which is now being standardised by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute.

ETSI’s aim is to help operators build more agile networks that are able to respond dynamically to the traffic and services running over them.

Nokia hopes to target that market with its AirFrame Data Center Solution. It consists of racks filled with servers, switches and storage ready to run the virtualised services. The servers were designed in-house and manufactured by a partner, Nokia said.

Some of Nokia’s biggest competitors, including Ericsson and Huawei Technologies, are already selling data centre equipment to network operators. Enterprise server and virtualisation vendors such as Dell, Hewlett-Packard, VMware and Red Hat hope to profit from NFV to sell to the telecommunications market too.

Nokia hopes to distinguish its offering with a set of acceleration cards that will improve performance by off-loading demanding network tasks such as encryption.

It will continue an existing partnership with HP to virtualise mobile networks, but believes the AirFrame is the most advanced alternative, a spokeswoman said via e-mail.

Virtualisation is such an integral part of Nokia’s future, it makes sense for the company to develop a platform that isn’t dependent on a third party.

HP too sees a need for a more complete product portfolio, and last week acquired ConteXtream to boost its own offerings.

In April, Nokia announced plans to acquire rival Alcatel-Lucent, which already has NFV plans of its own, having last year announced a collaboration with Red Hat to virtualise mobile networks. Nokia is also acquiring Eden Rock, a specialist in self-organising networks, which would benefit from running on NFV systems, and shares the goal of making networks more flexible.

IDG News Service

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