NFV use case deployment trends – is there a pattern?
Given the broader definition and application possibilities with NFV, any potential network function can be a candidate for deployment. These range from Set top boxes, smart home appliances, SOHO/CPE devices, RAN and BBU services, EPC, Gateway services, CDN and whole other gamut of services. However the adoption and initial planning for POCs and deployments by carriers is indicating trends characterized by several common factors.
Upon closer look some of these are coming out as important considerations for these use cases. Key among them:
• Legacy services versus New revenue opportunities
• Data processing intensive services vs. Control or Policy services
• Maturity of the current NFV solutions
• Scale of deployment needed
• End user market segment
• Network traffic overhead
Virtualizing some of the network functions such as IMS Control services or Policy plane functions in EPC network have a lower threshold on scale and performance considerations. These are emerging as a definitive use cases all across the spectrum.
The others such as CPE and BRAS are data processing intensive services which require scale. Some of the scaling issues are addressed by considering pushing the NFV infrastructure closer to access networks. For short to intermediate term these services could be available to market segments that do not require scaling to few thousands of service instances from a single physical POP hosting an NFV infrastructure.
This decentralization of NFV infrastructure POPs also to some extent addresses the overhead of additional traffic over long haul to a centralized POP. There are several potential use cases in mobile computing world such as VAS servers, M2M functions which fall off the list of deployable use cases because of this long haul overhead in traffic.
Another categorization that can be drawn is based on whether a service is creating a new revenue generating opportunity as opposed to reducing the CAPEX and OPEX of the a legacy service. For example BRAS use case as a legacy service is being considered for new deployments and is clearly targeted for lowering costs of infrastructure and operations. CDN may be providing new revenue generating opportunities for carrier by allowing them to directly offer premium content and enter the OTT provider market.
The following figure summarizes several of the potential use cases against some of the key factors described and the readiness based on maturity of solutions available.
While there is a need for evolution in maturity of current solutions in order to scale, the fact remains that the potential for application of use cases and the services through an NFV framework is huge. It is the service providers and carriers that stand to gain the most by expanding their market reach.