SAN FRANCISCO — Telecommunications will increasingly depend on software running on servers, according to executives from Intel and Dell, speaking at separate company events here.
Often described as software-defined networking (SDN) or network functions virtualization (NFV), the goal is to minimize hardware in favor of energy-efficient servers and datacenters.
“The focus of Dell’s main hardware business is changing over time. As you switch to a time where software-based is going to be a reality, software is going to be embedded in more things,” Dell Software president John Swainson said at the event. “Software is becoming the way we at Dell add value to basic hardware and the way we configure it.”
Still, transitioning to these functions is a complicated, multi-layer process that involves a variety of infrastructures. Networking equipment is still transitioning from a market founded on basic custom designs to a more service and partner-driven one, while existing equipment in enterprise spaces such as routers and switches needs to be realigned or repurposed for SDN.
Companies are not effectively using the breadth of assets already in the market, said Rose Schooler, vice president and general manager of Intel's Communications and Storage Infrastructure Group. Such a move would create an ecosystem of networking tools, giving companies like HP, Dell, and Oracle a “much more prominent role and public role in telco operations.
“The value system is changing and an ecosystem emerging. Networking has never had an ecosystem; it has had a supply chain where an RFI has been submitted and the traditional equipment manufacturers provided end-to-end capability. With the disaggregation of software from hardware, we’re seeing the first substantiation of a true networking ecosystem.”
In the telecom industry this ecosystem could include small cells to improve coverage and user experience, or in places with a large fiber install base, cloud access technologies could be adopted. Schooler also suggests creating ASICs to put less traffic in backhaul for geographies with smaller amounts of fiber.