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New orchestrator helps communication service providers

The new Oracle Communication Network Service Orchestration solution is designed to guide communications service providers onto NFV.

Currently, each part of the telecommunications network requires special knowledge to operate, incorporates equipment from multiple vendors and runs proprietary software. It requires manual work to coordinate software across the entire network. Engineers have to personally make sure there is always enough bandwidth.

To curb these issues, telecommunications operators want to automate the network, Michael Howard, co-founder of Infonetics Research, said. This is where the new technology of the network services orchestrator comes into play. "The whole idea of the orchestrator," said Howard, "is to have something that looks over the top and can create services independent of the network."

Oracle's newest communications software, the Oracle Communication Network Service Orchestration solution, brings Oracle into the orchestration business for communications service providers. Barry Hill, Oracle's global head of network functions virtualization (NFV), called it the "brains and control center" of Oracle's offering for communications service providers. The software is part of the Oracle Communications Intelligent Orchestration Framework, which bills itself as a way of smoothing the path for communications service providers as they introduce NFV technology. According to Hill, the telecommunications industry is normally slow-moving, but it has recently become more efficient and dynamic, all at a lower cost. Hill said that the telecommunications industry is becoming more engaged with virtualization and hypervisors. For example, communications service providers, said Hill, are interested in emulating enterprise data centers' use of the simpler and more flexible software-defined network (SDN) technology.

I can imagine [communications service providers] moving at the same speed as these Internet companies that don't have any real physical processes. That's the real goal.
Leonard Sheahansenior director of project management, Oracle Communications

The Oracle Communication Network Service Orchestration software uses predictive analytics to find patterns in the network and suggest changes. The operator feeds the network policies into the policy engine, which tells the Oracle software to act based on the parameters established in the policy. The Oracle Communication Network Service Orchestration solution operates within a three-level hierarchy. On the ground floor are the data center, cloud processors and storage. Above that, in the middle layer, are the applications for running the network. The orchestration software sits at the top, coordinating the software in the other two layers and managing the virtual infrastructure.

"All the biggest operators," Howard said, "have been interested in this [orchestration] for three years now." As orchestration technology for telecommunications is beginning to come out of the proof-of-concept stage, operators will finally be able to act on these interests.

According to Hill, communications service providers are now just looking for an efficient way to change over their infrastructure. The next step is still in the concept-and-trial phase, but the idea is to replace the network infrastructure with NFV technology and create a machine-to-machine cloud platform for the network. The trials will move to network deployments, but Hill declined to give a time frame.

"I can imagine [communications service providers] moving at the same speed as these Internet companies that don't have any real physical processes," Leonard Sheahan, senior director of project management at Oracle Communications, said. "That's the real goal."

"Communications service providers want to be able to buy pieces and parts," Infonetics' Howard said. The ability to mix and match parts from different vendors across the network is the ideal for communications service providers." However, in the real world, he said, orchestration is still in the proof-of-concept phase, and in order to run a field test the company has to pick out every piece that it plans to use. Furthermore, all of these pieces have to work together, which makes a company like Oracle, which already has its own ecosystem, attractive. Howard believes this will lead many communications service providers to acquire all of their new NFV technology from one vendor with a large ecosystem.

The orchestrator is a key element to choose when implementing SDN and NFV, and Howard said that the other pieces will fall in line with that selection. Furthermore, for proof-of-concept trials, communications service providers are testing orchestration out on only a small part of the network, so they will want to get all the parts at once to speed up the trial. This means buying all of the parts from same vendor, providing another advantage to companies like Oracle that have large ecosystems. Ericsson, NEC and other big telecommunications companies are also competing in the orchestration market. However, Howard said, "Oracle is in a position to play with all the big guys. They're positioned to be a strong player in this market."

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