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The NFV/SDN Trends in China You Need to Know

Chinese communication service providers (CSPs) are using network functions virtualization (NFV) technology to deliver expanded internet services to customers, and are hoping for a strengthened economy as a result.

NFV is the next stage in evolution for CSPs. As part of its Internet Plus initiative, China is embracing this technology, which offers flexibility, speed and cost-effectiveness.

While the technology is still new, and there is much to be learned, Chinese companies are moving ahead to expand China’s internet coverage, and strengthen its economy as a result.

This newest development in networking technology is expanding and improving services for companies doing business in the Chinese market. As part of a software-defined networking (SDN) framework, NFV enables CSPs to quickly and easily deliver innovations to customers.

The NFV Advantage

NFV replaces traditional telecommunications network appliances — like routers and firewalls — with software running on off-the-shelf servers, significantly increasing the flexibility and speed for new service delivery.

Operators can deploy cutting-edge functions at certain network locations without the need for new equipment. This more dynamic operation enables network administrators to rapidly respond to evolving customer requirements. Because less equipment is needed, costs decrease and efficiencies are gained.

Chinese CSPs have been quick to adopt this technology to improve services to their customers, and deliver the best networks in China.

In an effort to strengthen enterprise internet, China has begun to embrace NFV. One organization helping to plan NFV implementations is the Network Function Virtualization Lab, which is a joint effort between Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) and the China Telecom Beijing Research Institute. The lab helps China Telecom accelerate new offerings for its customers, and test and verify the benefits of transitioning to NFV technology from legacy networks.

Quoted in a press release from Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Li Zhigang, President, China Telecom Beijing Research Institute said, “We believe that the integration of NFV within SDN-enabled infrastructure will be the next stage of evolution for the strategic development of the China Telecom network.”

He Jianbo, Manager, Network Function Virtualization, China, Hewlett Packard Enterprise added, “NFV will deliver carrier-grade solutions that offer available and reliable network performance. This will help Chinese and global CSPs compete more effectively and deliver new services more quickly to its customers at a lower cost.”

China’s Internet Plan

With its quickly expanding economy — and accompanying enterprise internet — China has the opportunity to benefit greatly from NFV technology, as it helps strengthen the country’s broadband infrastructure, enabling it to attract businesses from other countries.

The Chinese Government recognizes this potential impact and has developed a strategy for advancing NFV technology, contributing to the development of the best networks in China.

Following the country’s lowest growth in 24 years, Beijing instituted the Internet Plus policy in 2015 to push the country ahead in terms of technology. The policy seeks to add internet services, such as mobile, cloud, big data and Internet of Things (IoT) to other fields, initiating a springboard for new industries and business development.

For example, internet technology combined with manufacturing could produce new production methods; internet combined with medicine could optimize medical treatment; and internet combined with agriculture would give farmers better climate, land and demand data.

Digital Trends says that Internet Plus depends heavily on the web. It states, “As part of Internet Plus, China plans to bolster its research and development spending to a total of 2.5 percent of gross domestic product through 2020. This represents an increase of 0.4 percent.”

It’s important to note that, while telecommunications networks represent a mature technology, NFV is still in its early stages.

According to Linux.com, at the China SDN/NFV Conference 2016, held in Beijing in April, Wei Leping, President of the SDN/NFV Industry Alliance commented, “Internet application companies, cloud service providers and a small number of large carriers are currently leading the way in SDN/NFV development.”

Overcoming Challenges

The challenges that accompany a shift to NFV are strategic, architectural and operational, according to Network Testing Product Manager Trinh Vu of Amdocs Inc.

Strategic challenges include change management and determining what to virtualize, where to begin and how to measure success. Architectural challenges include managing performance, reliability and security risks. And operational challenges include managing complex NFV deployments and dealing with the operational complexity of virtualized/hybrid carrier networks.

CSPs transitioning to NFV must learn to think differently about service innovations, and must go through an initial learning curve to gain the necessary skills and experience to make the best use of this technology. Linux.com reported Mr. Wei’s recommendations for future development in this area:

  •  Choose an advantageous strategy to deepen transformation.
  • Settle on practical tactics, followed by productive actions.
  • Dare to make breakthroughs in thought processes.
  • Collaborate with others in the industry to avoid fragmentation.

Despite these challenges to enterprise internet, Chinese CSPs are using NFV to deliver the best networks in China and bring customers innovative, responsive features.

As NFV technology and telecommunications progresses, businesses looking to expand in China will need to find a trusted Chinese partner to provide the internet backbone for their operations.

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