VMware Ramps Up NFV, SD-WAN Efforts

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By: R. Scott Raynovich

BARCELONA -- Mobile World Congress 2019 -- VMware is flexing its muscle in virtualization for the service-provider market, with the announcement of a deal with AT&T to integrate 5G with its software-defined wide-area networking (SD-WAN) technologies as well as partnership with Ericsson on Network Function Virtualization (NFV).

AT&T and VMware announced they will partner to integrate 5G capabilities with the carrier's SD-WAN offering. AT&T has two SD-WAN services, one built internally as well as an overlay network using  VMware's VeloCloud platform. Both of AT&T's offerings use VMware's core network virtualization technologies. AT&T will be offering SD-WAN services as part of its wireless broadband services. 

5G Broadband Is Here

The integration of 5G and SD-WAN makes sense, because the bandwidth increases offered by 5G services are expected to make it a legitimate competitor with fixed wired broadband -- which will be attractive to enterprises looking to diversify the way they connect their branches and employees. The initial rollouts of 5G have been focused on fixed wireless broadband applications. AT&T says it now has some flavor of 5G service in 12 markets, though its definition of 5G is somewhat controversial in the industry because the full standard is not yet finished. 

Businesses with an AT&T SD-WAN service will be able to upgrade to 5G where available by swapping out the modem changing the modem. The 5G capabilities will extend its current SD-WAN offerings where it’s deployed.

The announcement reinforces the growing importance of SD-WAN as a platform for enterprise services at the edge of the network.

VMware, Ericsson Partner on NFV

Meanwhile, VMware and Ericsson signed a five-year agreement on network virtualization for Communication Service Providers (CSPs). The two companies say the agreement will provide "industry-leading experience for CSPs deploying and running a combination of Ericsson applications and VMware’s vCloud NFV platform."

As part of the deal, the two companies have established a virtual network functions (VNF) Certification Lab. 

The alliance comes at an interesting time for NFV in service providers. Many industry sources categorize the evolution of NFV at service providers as disappointing at best. There have been many doubts about the various NFV platforms, including open-source technologies such as Open Stack, and VMware may be taking advantage of that doubt by plugging in its commercialized virtualization platform as the market matures. 

The two companies claim more than 50 service running live mobile networks with Ericsson VNFs using vCloud NFV.