NTT DOCOMO’s vEPC Launch – The Plot Thickens

David Snow - Principal Analyst, IP Services Infrastructure
David Snow – Principal Analyst, IP Services Infrastructure

Summary Bullets:                 

  • Late to announce its participation in NTT DOCOMO’s commercial vEPC launch, Fujitsu/Nokia pushes the projects VNFM count up to at least two.
  • More than ever before, the VNFM is attracting serious attention with carrier options for VNFM procurement multiplying.

A couple of weeks back, on March 9, NTT DOCOMO commercially launched its national vEPC infrastructure and we made some comments in this blog of March 17 around the significance of this rollout in terms of being “multi-vendor”, “NFV” and “on time”.  In particular, we noted the fact that DOCOMO had selected three vendors from an original cadre of six after several years of intense cross-vendor VNF/MANO/NFVI testing. Almost inevitably, that statement was challenged by a subsequent vendor announcement and a number of calls to Current Analysis from “the other three”.

So what more can we now say?

Firstly, it’s clear that Nokia is also supplying both its vEPC VNF and its associated VNF Manager (VNFM) as part of DOCOMO’s rollout. On March 26, Fujitsu flagged up its role in the project, fronting Nokia’s products and highlighting its own role in network integration.

What does this now imply?

Well, it also now looks as if there likely are multiple (VNF + VNFM) vendor combinations running in DOCOMO’s vEPC deployment. This illustrates the latest hot topic in the NFV MANO market. We are seeing a battle for VNFM ownership.  Most, if not all operators, intent on getting virtualized deployments into the field, now seem content to lay aside the architectural debate as to whether there should be just one or many VNFMs per NFV orchestrator (NFVO).  What matters more is, for any one deployment, which players are best placed to supply VNFM functionality into the project. While this sourcing issue has also been around for some time, it’s now more apparent than ever that VNFM procurement is no longer seen as a binary choice between the VNF vendor and the NFVO vendor.  As of today, an operator has bewildering array of VNFM sourcing options:

  • A VNF vendor supplies a vendor-specific VNFM
  • A VNF vendor embeds VNFM functionality into its VNF
  • The NFVO vendor supplies a generic VNFM (G-VNFM)
  • The NFVO vendor supplies a specific VNFM (S-VNFM)
  • An independent vendor supplies a generic VNFM
  • An open source consortium supplies a generic VNFM
  • The operator itself develops a generic VNFM

None of this of course detracts from NTT DOCOMO’s achievement.  Successfully navigating a path to an operational, high scale, multi-vendor vEPC deployment with harmonized VNF management remains no mean feat and the more vendors involved only adds to it.


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