According to Gartner, the global mobile data traffic will increase by 59% in 2015 and will touch 173 million terabytes (TB) in 2018. Increased adoption of smart phones that leads to variety and volume of data, IoT/M2M device connectivity and higher data consumption per user is placing immense pressure on the current network infrastructure. This drives services providers with the need to rapidly scale up their capability and meet this growing demand. However, the present network architecture comprises of expensive hardware-based appliances with software tightly embedded into them. This not only makes the network rigid and fragmented, but also expensive with limited scalability.
Software Defined Networking (SDN) and Network Function Virtualization (NFV) can transform the network architecture to enable applications to have real-time visibility into the network. The applications can program the network on-demand thus helping to create an agile infrastructure that is responsive to changing needs. Some of the benefits of SDN/NFV include:
- Reduced CapEx/OpEx - Since everything is virtualized, investment in infrastructure at the customer site is almost nil. For example, virtualized radio access network (vRAN) does not require a baseband unit (BBU) at the site. This lowers the OpEx due to limited power consumption and rents at cell site with an estimated total cost of ownership (TCO) savings of 9% in India. Similarly, by replacing the use of multiple hardware appliances at the customer premises, virtual customer premise equipment solution (vCPE) can reduce TCO by about 45%.
- Reduced deployment time - An SDN/NFV based network architecture automates service delivery by streamlining the approach. This reduces time-to-market as a result of reduced deployment time and increased efficiency of other network functions.
- Reduced or no dependence on hardware - Since everything is centralized, SDN/NFV based network uses no or minimum hardware at customer site. For example, a virtual set-top-box (vSTB) provides the required agility, lower customer acquisition cost, helps in avoiding costly hardware upgrades and reduces OpEx on field staff.
- Scalability - SDN/NFV provides the required agility to provision services rapidly. This agility enables different use cases to auto-scale. For example, virtualization of EPC allows CSPs to provide differentiated services to IoT and M2M customers with specialized network capacity and resiliency requirements. This helps CSPs with an estimated five year TCO reduction of 46% with vEPC.
Following is a chart depicting a comparison between different SDN/NFV based technologies/use cases.