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Millicom Selects Affirmed Networks as the Strategic Partner to Deploy Its Cloud-Based, 5G-Ready Core Network

by Affirmed Affirmed No Comments

Acton, Massachusetts, U.S.A., February 11, 2020Affirmed Networks, a leader in mobile network 5G transformation, announced today that Millicom, a leading provider of cable and mobile services in Latin America operating under the TIGO brand, has selected Affirmed Networks as the strategic partner for its cloud-based, 5G-ready core network solution. Millicom will deploy Affirmed’s virtual Evolved Packet Core (vEPC) solution on VMware’s vCloud NFV platform, to serve as the foundation for an ambitious rollout of new mobile and Wi-Fi services.

Millicom’s strategic goal is to build and grow digital highways across Latin America, and to provide next-generation digital services to its Tigo customers in the region. Working in partnership with Affirmed, Millicom will meet that goal by:

  • Building a world-class, cloud-based, 5G-ready core network platform based on Affirmed’s high-performance, distributed architecture;
  • Improving service agility and reducing operational costs across geographically distributed networks, with the introduction of software-based Virtualized Network Functions;
  • Offering local breakout services to customers in Latin America that will include differentiated offers and new connectivity services.

“We chose Affirmed Networks as our strategic partner for their innovative cloud-native architecture, the industry-leading performance and efficiency of their solution, as well as our shared vision for the future,” said Xavier Rocoplan, Millicom’s EVP and Group CTIO. “As we continuously look to expand our digital highways across our markets in Latin America and bring new, innovative services to our customers, our partnership with Affirmed sets the foundation for a digitalized, limitless future.”

Affirmed’s vEPC solution will allow Millicom to deliver differentiated services with industry-leading throughput and real-time network analytics to ensure a great customer experience. The solution will allow a future introduction of 5G services to the region, bringing high-bandwidth, low-latency edge services such as augmented /virtual reality, real-time video streaming, and Internet of Things (IoT) applications closer to customers.

“The flexibility of Affirmed’s distributed architecture allows us to rapidly deploy a cutting-edge core network solution across all our markets in Central America, and will simplify the integration of our newly acquired mobile networks,” said Christophe Eyquem, CTIO for Central America.

Millicom will also deploy Affirmed’s virtualized Wi-Fi gateway to provide seamless handoffs between Millicom’s macrocellular networks and Wi-Fi environments for a smooth customer experience.

“Millicom is in the vanguard of the world’s mobile network operators in terms of understanding the profound business impacts of digital transformation and automation.  Millicom has fully recognized the value of software agility to address the needs of their disparate and dynamic customer base,” said Ron Parker, Affirmed’s CTO. “Affirmed Networks revolutionizes Millicom’s ability to rapidly address their customers’ needs and win in the marketplace. “

Through its strategic partnership with Affirmed and VMware, Millicom has big plans for its telco cloud infrastructure that includes a software-defined, automated, NFV-based mobile core, and a converged, unified cloud architecture. VMware’s vCloud platform will allow Millicom to modernize its current network infrastructure to become 5G-ready and accelerate the time-to-market for new services. With VMware and Affirmed, Millicom will have the ability to customize services across brands, simplify their operational model, and develop and launch new services quickly using a distributed, mobile core platform based on control and user plane separation (CUPS).

About Affirmed Networks, Inc.

Affirmed Networks was founded to transform the future of the mobile industry. Our vEPC and cloud-based solutions are enabling Communications Service Providers (CSPs) to change the economics of deploying and scaling networks. CSPs have deployed Affirmed’s NFV solutions to deliver differentiated 5G services, including mobile broadband, IoT, carrier-grade Wi-Fi roaming, connected cars, and more. Proven in more than 100+ networks and over 80 countries, our NFV solutions are deployed in the world’s largest networks. For more information, please visit www.affirmednetworks.com.

10 Tips for a Successful NFV Deployment

by Affirmed Affirmed No Comments

Over the past eight years, Affirmed Networks has helped leading service providers successfully transition to NFV based architectures and realize exceptional returns. Along the way, we’ve learned some valuable NFV deployment lessons on how providers can avoid underwhelming NFV results and realize the technology’s full transformative benefits.

 

Some telecommunications network equipment vendors think that Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) is a byproduct of 5G and that the one shouldn’t arrive before the other. Reality says otherwise; many communication service providers are deriving value from NFV initiatives right now, primarily in the form of CAPEX/OPEX savings and network agility. Yet many service providers, in our experience, still only tap into 30 to 40 percent of NFV’s true potential. 

In terms of NFV challenges, what is it that typically holds providers back from realizing NFV’s full potential? There is no single reason for preventing NFV’s full potential; rather, it’s likely a combination of missed opportunities and misunderstanding as to NFV’s architectural requirements. 

Affirmed has helped many service providers transition to NFV-based architectures and realize the great returns. We’ve learned some valuable lessons to pass along to  providers. Our tips can help service providers avoid the challenges of an NFV deployment and underwhelming NFV results and realize the technology’s full transformative benefits.

 

Our Tips for NFV Deployment Success

To help CSPs across the world ensure success for NFV deployments as they prepare for 5G, we have identified 10 tips to overcome challenges  for a successful NFV deployment in 2020. 

  1. Not all hardware is created equal
  2. The packet forwarding architecture and hypervisor need attention too
  3. Don’t oversubscribe the application
  4. NFV isn’t a simple plug-and-play solution
  5. Redundancy needs to be built into the application and not just the NFVI architecture
  6. Telecom applications require built-in load balancing
  7. VMs need to scale independently
  8. The packet forwarding architecture and hypervisor need attention too
  9. Ownership is important
  10. One EMS is better than two (or three)

 

#1 Not all hardware is created equal:

There is a belief that you can run virtualized telecom applications on any vendor’s server – however, this is only a half-truth. There is one hardware dependency that always needs to be considered: the hardware must have a network interface card (NIC) that supports the data plane development kit (DPDK) in order to function properly. 

In our experience, we’ve found it’s often better to bundle the virtual network function (VNF) with hardware providers that support this NIC requirement rather than deploy the VNF in a hardware-agnostic environment.

 

#2 The packet forwarding architecture and hypervisor need attention too

While choosing the appropriate hardware can aid in the performance of your virtualized network, the packet forwarding architecture requires attention as well. The main function of the evolved packet core (EPC) is to move a large number of packets through the data plane. This means you need very high performance in the data plane. 

Typically, packets travel through the vSwitch function within the hypervisor, which queues them for the virtual machines (VMs). The vSwitch function uses a great deal of computing power, which limits the performance that VMs can achieve. This creates a need for single-root input/output virtualization (SR-IOV) technology to get around this limitation. SR-IOV technology allows the packets to bypass the hypervisor layer and travel directly from the PCI on the server to the VMs, giving the VMs full use of all CPU power and significantly increasing performance.

While SR-IOV is not a requirement for an NFV deployment, its role and impact are sometimes misunderstood by service providers. If a provider requires very high throughput, then SR-IOV is necessary. Furthermore, applications are very sensitive to how the hypervisor is configured and the specific settings it uses. In order to reach maximum performance, service providers must also tune the hypervisor to meet the specific requirements of their application (e.g., tuning how the hypervisor schedules the CPUs, CPU pinning, etc.).

 

#3 Don’t oversubscribe the application

Another important NFV deployment tip is to never oversubscribe a virtual application or the application’s CPU. Even though the technology allows for oversubscription of the application, this ends up degrading the performance of the application and causes problems down the road.

 

#4 NFV isn’t a plug-and-play solution

While virtualization is often marketed as plug and play, the reality is that it requires some tuning in the ecosystem for telecom applications to run at maximum performance. For example, in one NFV deployment, a customer experienced a denial-of-service attack that featured a lot of “burstiness” in the traffic. 

The DPDK driver was indiscriminately dropping packets and causing packet loss because it didn’t have any concept of quality of service (QoS). This required modification of the driver to avoid latency and packet loss. While this may seem like a minor detail, it can have a major impact on performance.

 

#5 – Redundancy needs to be built into the application and not just the NFVI architecture

In the enterprise world, redundancy is a relatively simple matter of spinning up a new VM when one VM fails. This works well for stateless, transaction-based applications, but telecom applications are stateful. When you lose the state of the VM, you lose the service. Also, when a VM fails, the time it requires to spin up a new VM is far too long for telecommunications applications and extends the problem of service disruption – a challenge for many service providers. 

In order to provide stateful redundancy in a telecom environment, operators cannot rely only on NFVI redundancy; statefulness needs to be built directly into the virtual application itself or maintained in an externalized database. That’s the approach we took when building our virtualized EPC solution, and it is a very important lesson to remember when talking about NFV.

 

#6 – Telecom applications require built-in load balancing

One of the main benefits of a virtual environment is the ability to scale up or scale down your processing power as workload demands change. When decommissioning a VM, however, you lose the state of that VM. In an enterprise environment featuring stateless, transaction-based applications, this is not an issue—but it is an issue in a telecom environment where stateful applications are the norm. 

Telecom applications that support dynamic scaling need load balancing; this way, when new resources are available, the application can load-balance across the new resources to prevent dropping service during a call/session. We believe load balancing should be built into the application, as the application knows better how to use the resources than an external load balancer.

 

#7 – VMs need to scale independently

NFV vendors need to be thinking about scalability before they build their solutions, not after. Specifically, vendors need to ensure that their VNFs can scale independently across different dimensions. In a telecom application, the data plane, management plane and control (i.e., signaling) plane each need to be scaled independently to avoid paying for stranded capacity. 

In a blade-based architecture, the signaling, data, and management capacity are added in fixed ratios; as more signaling capacity is needed, more blades are added. The result is that service providers end up with more data capacity as well, whether they need it or not. In a virtualized architecture, independent scaling is supported, meaning providers can scale up signaling capacity without affecting the data or management dimensions. This is the reason we chose to decompose each plane when we built our vEPC.

Applications need to be designed in a flexible way, allowing the scaling of VMs based on the specific call model or application (e.g., IoT, enterprise, consumer) and the availability of resources. By doing this, service providers can right-size the capacity for the specific call model.

 

#8 – Ownership is important

Service providers have traditionally relied upon their vendors to provide all the layers of a solution. NFV architecture is different. There’s a hardware layer, a hypervisor layer, and an application layer to consider, with each vendor bringing their own perspective to the solution. Instead of one finger to point when things go wrong, service providers must now point several fingers. This creates a challenge for providers in managing NFV deployments, as there is no clear accountability. 

At Affirmed, we’ve encountered this problem by taking “ownership” of the NFV experience and ultimate responsibility for the way our vEPC solution behaves in the NFV infrastructure (NFVI) environment. Our customers appreciate having an experienced vendor as a lead implementor who can work with ecosystem partners to resolve any issues.

 

#9 – One EMS is better than two (or three)

Service providers are accustomed to a single element management system (EMS) that displays the state of the system (e.g., alarms, traps, etc.) across all solution layers. In an NFV architecture, however, there are separate element managers for each layer. Having an overarching EMS that extends visibility into all layers and manages them as a single pane of glass” is an important capability for any NFV architecture.

 

Take the time to learn from the leaders

Perhaps the most important lesson there is to be learned from the leaders in the NFV journey is not to wait. There are those vendors who will tell you that NFV isn’t ready for prime time. What they’re really saying is that their solutions aren’t ready yet. 

At Affirmed, we’re building virtualized solutions that give the leading operators of today the competitive advantage they need to remain the leaders of tomorrow. Our cloud-native, 5G core solution, UnityCloud, not only reduces CAPEX and OPEX but also provides the capabilities for new revenue-generating services including service automation and microservices creation.

Learn more about NFV deployments with this whitepaper we published.

Affirmed Networks Achieves Another Industry First: Delivers UnityCloud 5GC Solution on AWS

by Affirmed Affirmed No Comments
Enables Communications Service Providers to deploy a 5G Core Solution on a Hybrid Cloud; Allowing them to focus on accelerating innovation as they prepare for 5G.

ACTON, Mass. – October 22/23, 2019 – Affirmed Networks today delivered another industry first, the successful demonstration of the company’s UnityCloud™ 5G Core solution on AWS. This latest achievement allows Communications Service Providers (CSPs) to focus on delivering innovative services to their customers rather than on the operations of running a data center supporting a next-gen virtualized network.

Affirmed is now able to deliver the world’s most effective, cloud-native 5GC network solution over the proven, robust AWS cloud services. As a result, operators can accelerate innovation and enhance their competitive advantage by delivering advanced services over a scalable 5G Core.

“The arrival of 5G presents operators with a significant opportunity to embrace digital transformation and change how networks are deployed and operated, while also creating new experiences, services, and revenue streams that have the potential to drive business growth,” said Ashwin Moranganti, Affirmed Networks’ Vice president, Product Management and Marketing. “The operators that most effectively capitalize on this opportunity will be those that focus on what they do best. This is why we are seeing interest from innovative operators in leveraging hybrid cloud, as it allows them to accelerate innovation without having to focus on the complexity of data center operations.”

Affirmed UnityCloud significantly improves network economics by converging ‘Any G,’ including 2G, 3G, 4G, 5G, and wireline core on to one unified core.  This eliminates the need for CSPs to maintain parallel legacy networks and allows them to quickly create and deploy new consumer, enterprise, and IoT services.

The 5G core running on a trusted hybrid cloud such as AWS represents an ideal solution for operators. By leveraging Affirmed UnityCloud on AWS unique hybrid cloud, CSPs can now easily orchestrate the control and user plane. This allows them to centralize control plane by placing its workload in the AWS regional cloud and distributing user planes by moving user planes closer to the user at the network or enterprise edge via AWS Outposts. As a result, CSPs gain the best user experience with the highest performance, ultra-low latencies, and the lowest possible TCO.

This approach provides CSPs with the flexibility to design and deploy hybrid clouds in a wide variety of on-prem or public cloud-based models.  As a result, CSPs can accelerate innovation by providing developers with the same infrastructure, services, and APIs that will support the service when it is delivered. This enables CSPs to:

  • Build an application once, and deploy via the cloud or on-premises, significantly decreasing the amount of custom software required, increasing developer velocity.
  • Eliminate custom environments that must be deployed, operated, and monitored, reducing operational complexity and risk.
  • Access a vast ecosystem of AWS developers allowing the development of new compelling applications that will help monetize 5G investments.

As such, CSPs are able to reap the benefits of digital transformation by focusing on their core competencies. Operators also benefit from AWS’ global reach that allows them to quickly and easily expand into new markets and geographies to drive revenue growth without increasing complexity.

Affirmed UnityCloud is a web-scale, cloud-native 5G innovation platform that helps CSPs to quickly create and deploy new consumer, enterprise, and IoT services. With UnityCloud, operators can deploy new services in weeks versus months, which allows them to rapidly respond to market demands and compete more effectively. UnityCloud’s true microservice architecture enables automated fine-grained slicing so the solution can be tailored to the disparate needs of individual enterprises, applications, and use cases to support a wide range of new service offerings.

UnityCloud is currently engaged in several trials with tier one operators globally that are building 5G Standalone (SA) networks.

About Affirmed Networks, Inc.

Affirmed Networks was founded to transform the future of the mobile industry. Our vEPC and cloud-based solutions are enabling Communications Service Providers (CSPs) to change the economics of deploying and scaling networks. CSPs have deployed Affirmed’s NFV solutions to deliver differentiated 5G services, including mobile broadband, IoT, carrier-grade Wi-Fi roaming, connected cars, and more. Proven in more than 100+ networks and over 80 countries, our NFV solutions are deployed in the world’s largest networks. For more information, please visit www.affirmednetworks.com.

How to Implement Seamless Service Provisioning for 5G Networks

by Affirmed Affirmed No Comments

Service Provisioning Makes 5G Services as Smart on the Inside as They Are on the Outside

As 5G approaches, the telecom conversation has shifted from smartphones to 5G services such as smart cars and smart cities. And while 5G services are fun to talk about, one of the things that many telco vendors aren’t talking about is service provisioning; how these services will actually be turned up, provisioned, and managed in a network environment where 5G, 4G, 3G, and even 2G technology are likely to co-exist for a long time.

Of course, being the 5G-focused company that we are, Affirmed is not just talking about it, we actually did something about it by developing telecom solutions to address service provisioning in just such a hybrid environment. You can read more about it in the new ACG Research paper, “Hybrid Networks: Integrated Provisioning for Virtual and Physical Networks.”

Service provisioning and creating new services, go hand in hand. Particularly with enterprises, which stand to be some of the largest consumers of 5G services, issues such as speed-to-service and service assurance are very important.

It’s one thing, for example, to turn up and provision mobile data services for an individual subscriber, but what happens when your subscriber is an entire city? Suddenly, you’re talking about mobilizing a small army of network resources that may be spread across different domains and vendor technologies, all of which need to work together seamlessly. Even in a purely virtualized world, that’s a challenge; in a network where virtual and physical elements are mixed together, it’s a mistake waiting to happen.

 

What is Seamless Service Provisioning for MNOs?

What is seamless service provisioning in telecom, and what does it look like for Mobile Network Operators? For starters, it looks the same whether the underlying technology is a virtual network function (VNF) or a physical appliance, using a single, easy-to-use interface to manage both. (By “easy to use,” we’re talking service orchestration with drag-and-drop simplicity, so it’s easy even for non-engineers to use.) It also dynamically allocates the right amount of resources for the job, so network operators don’t have to take the cost hit of equipment sitting idle.

In addition to its ease of use, service provisioning also manages the service for the entire lifecycle, from inception to deletion, and automated provisioning allows for automated management tasks. In other words, provisioning makes 5G services as convenient inside the network as they’re intended to be outside the network.

 

A Smarter Approach to Service Provisioning:

Affirmed enables seamless service provisioning via its domain orchestration and service automation solutions. At a high level, Affirmed’s Domain Orchestrator provides end-to-end service orchestration across hybrid, multivendor network environments. It also includes automation for complex provisioning scenarios: activating a new service, performing self-healing, or scaling service resources as demand changes.

The UnityCloud Operations Service Automation Platform features a simple drag-and-drop interface for rapid service creation, again connecting seamlessly across physical and virtual network functions from a variety of vendors through standard interfaces. Together, Domain Orchestrator and ASAP make it much easier for mobile service providers to deliver 5G services quickly and consistently, whether they’re rolling out an IoT service for an entire city or deploying consumer mobile broadband services in an entirely new region. And that’s important because, in a world where everyone is talking the 5G talk, you need a smarter approach to service provisioning if you expect to walk the walk.

Affirmed Networks Appoints Anand Krishnamurthy to President and COO

by Affirmed Affirmed No Comments

Member of Company’s Founding Team to Assume Broader Operational Role as the Company Continues to Help Mobile Operators Prepare for 5G

 

ACTON, MASSACHUSETTS, USA, September 12, 2019 – Affirmed Networks, the leader in virtualized mobile networks, today announced it has promoted Anand Krishnamurthy to President and Chief Operating Officer, reporting directly to Hassan Ahmed, Affirmed’s Chairman, and CEO. A member of the group that founded Affirmed Networks nine years ago, Anand brings an intimate understanding of the business that will be critical in guiding the company’s growth as it continues to help its 100+ customers prepare for the arrival of 5G.

A 20-year veteran of the telecommunications industry, Anand brings a combination of deep technical and business expertise as the company leads the transformation of mobile networks toward cloud-native architectures that will be the foundation for new 5G services. In his new role, Anand will direct all operational decisions, while driving alignment and cohesion across the functional areas that now report directly to him.

“As one of the founding members of Affirmed Networks, Anand has been key to helping us achieve our current leadership position,” said Hassan Ahmed, Chairman, and CEO, Affirmed Networks. “Having grown our engineering organization from a handful of engineers to one of the most talented in the industry, Anand has a deep understanding of the unique requirements and characteristics of virtualized mobile networks. Throughout his time with us, he has gained an in-depth knowledge of the business, the trust of our customers and the respect of his team. All of this makes him ideally suited for his new role where he will be focused on ensuring continued growth during this critical time for our company and our industry.”

“Since its inception, Affirmed Networks has been on the leading edge of one of the most important transformations our industry has ever seen,” said Anand Krishnamurthy, Affirmed’s President, and COO. “We have been fortunate to have a world-class engineering team with a sharp focus on the needs of our customers as they completely redefine the way services will be delivered over 5G virtualized networks. I look forward to this expanded role, and to driving growth as we continue to support our customers.”

Throughout his career, Anand has held several technical and managerial roles within leading companies in the telecommunications industry including roles at Airvana, Ascend Communications, Cascade Communications, and Lucent Technologies. He holds degrees from the Birla Institute of Science and Technology and from Boston University.

 

About Affirmed Networks, Inc.
Affirmed Networks was founded to transform the future of the mobile industry. Our vEPC and cloud-based webscale solutions enable operators to change the economics of deploying and scaling networks. Operators deploy Affirmed’s NFV solutions to deliver differentiated 5G services including mobile broadband, IoT, carrier-grade Wi-Fi roaming, connected cars and more. Affirmed solutions enable operators to enhance the network experience while achieving as much as a 90% reduction in operational costs. Proven in more than 100+ networks and over 80 countries, our NFV solutions are deployed in the world’s largest networks and provide industry-leading performance and scale coupled with unmatched service agility, accelerating new service innovation, creation, and delivery. For more information, please visit www.affirmednetworks.com.