Portable Applications vs. Distributed NFV – Where’s the Broader Interest?

Peter Jarich
Peter Jarich

Summary Bullets:

  • Quortus and Cavium announced the integration of EPC software into Cavium’s small-cell silicon, delivering application intelligence at the network edge.
  • Current Analysis survey work suggests that operators do not see an interest in scaling applications to the network edge. This could be a short-sighted decision.

On July 21st, Quortus announced that it had managed to integrate EPC functionality into small-cell silicon from Cavium. Delivering “portable applications” and “edge-based intelligence” is what Quortus does, so the news was not particularly earth-shattering. Given the relatively niche use cases called out – emergency services, public safety, military communications – it was also the type of announcement that was likely to get overlooked.

Personally, it piqued my interest.

For years, we have talked up the need for a wide array of EPC form factors and capacities in order to meet a wide array of deployment scenarios. True, where operators have traditionally concentrated EPC capacity in a few locations nationally, scaling the mobile packet “core” to the end of the network may seem like a silly endeavor. Yet, as operators look to expand their addressable markets, vertical market applications cannot be ignored. And, to be clear, the applications stretch well beyond tactical communications. Venue-based business models have taken off over the past few years, with stadiums, malls and airports all becoming a new competitive battleground for telcos. Each of them represents an opportunity for an edge-based EPC deployment. At the same time, Quortus’ move aligns well with the recent operator interest in NFV, particularly to the extent that NFV supports application portability and vendors driving visibility beyond “distributed NFV” are telling a similar, edge-based intelligence story.

In other words, I like the story.

Yet, I also know that I may be somewhat alone in this. When we surveyed operators about their NFV objectives last year, scaling applications to the edge of the network came in nearly dead last.


So, where is the disconnect? Well, I don’t think there is one.

NFV is still a relatively new market evolution for operators. It is only natural that they would first focus on marquee priorities such as network simplification and multi-tenancy. This means that continued messaging and marketing around edge-based applications is needed in order to get operators thinking about the concept. Make no mistake, however: if operators are interested in moving beyond the consumer market and tackling various enterprise (vertical market) constituencies, they will want to be thinking about this concept.

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