Dell announces Network Functions Virtualization platform, starter kits

Dell’s NFV platform is targeted at the carrier market, giving Dell its first solid solution for this high-end space. It brings software-defined networking and compute infrastructure virtualization, which started in the enterprise and midmarket, into the carrier space.

NFV Image - small sliderDell is rolling out its Network Functions Virtualization platform today, along with accompanying companion starter kits. They are targeted at the carrier market.

Network Functions Virtualization is an industry term which refers to an application within a carrier or teleco network and whose roots are in software-defined networking.

“It represents advances in capabilities which have already been made by many large enterprise customers which are now being applied into the carrier network,” said Jeffrey Baher, Head of Product & Solutions Marketing, Dell Networking. “Carrier architectures do look a lot like enterprise architectures, and this is a significant opportunity for carriers to get improvements in their infrastructure like enterprises.”

Carriers have been trying to wrap their heads around the issues that enterprises have been dealing with, but have not been as successful.

“It’s because of their large scales that they are lagging,” Baher said. “Their scale and the fact that they have lots of hardware-based moving parts hurts their agility. NFV gives them a lot more flexibility and agility and they will be able to move a lot faster.” Thus innovations in software-defined networking and virtualizing the compute infrastructure, which started in the enterprise and midmarket, are working their way upmarket to the telcos.

The Dell NFV platform combines the latest Dell server, storage, networking and software technologies with Linux and OpenStack distributions to form fully converged, virtualized infrastructure which can execute virtual network functions. Dell is a Platinum-level, founding member of the Linux Foundation’s Open Platform NFV Project (OPNFV), which enables the open source reference implementations.

“These are ready-to-go solutions which take an open approach across the board, and we will work with any partner who wants to work on top of the platform,” Baher said.

The Dell NFV platform can scale in any direction – up, down, or out – to accommodate a wide-range of design goals, service capabilities, and environmental conditions, from small, unstaffed points-of-presences, to central office environments, to hyperscale data centers.

“The enterprise infrastructure is packaged in the way the carrier will need it,” Baher said. “Having the ability to dial up or down any amount of compute horsepower is really important as part of a carrier solution.”

There are also multiple options for data plane acceleration and service chaining, and support for a very wide range of VNFs and orchestration tools.

“It can accept any combination the service provider is looking to deploy,” Baher said.

“We are also bringing to market a set of two starter kits for carriers to start their proof of concepts, so the customers will have access to source code when they need it,” Baher added. “These are 100% open and standards based, the hallmark of what we have been doing on the enterprise side and our server franchise.”

One kit is based around the new PowerEdge R630 1RU compute nodes, and the other is based around the Dell M1000e blade chassis and the new M630 compute blades. Both kits also include the Dell S6000 10/40GbE Open Networking platform for feature-rich layer 2 and layer 3 networking, Dell’s Active Fabric Manager, and Dell’s OpenDaylight-compliant Active Fabric Controller. They can also be outfitted with a choice of Linux and OpenStack distributions as well as options for data plane acceleration and/or service chaining.

The NFV platform has three routes to market: direct; OEM; and integrator partners.

“We are making it available direct, so large operators can take it on their own, but much of the service provider community is served through OEMs, and also large system integrators,” Baher said. “The platform is set up for any of these channels.” Over time, he thinks the OEM model will become the most common route to market.

While the opportunities for most Dell partners here will be limited, Baher said that Dell getting into this market is important for its development as a company that is swimming further and further upstream.

“We are excited to be entering this market,” he said. “This is a very exciting new market for Dell and the carriers we will work with.”

The Dell NFV platform and associated starter kits are globally available now.