Network Slicing Making Progress

By Mika Skarp

This week MEF has published a reference architecture for the dynamic capacity model they call The Third Network. In case you missed it, my post on MEF from January this year provides some good background on MEF.

First kicked off in fall 2012, the project has won the backing of all major carriers in the US and globally. There is also strong support from vendors to make the Third Network vision a reality. The mission of the Third Network is to enable rapid scaling of networks by allowing new connections over several networks to be created instantaneously. Today this process can take days, and so it's no wonder MEF's vision for "agile, assured, orchestrated" networks has been so well-received and supported. There is no doubt that this model for a virtualized, Software Determined Network, now being described in greater detail will open up new opportunities to create truly dynamic services.

The first example of a dynamic service was published by the T-Nova project. T-Nova is a three year, EU-funded project implementing a service architecture that combines Cloud services with dynamic connectivity. This shows clearly the benefits of the dynamic model. You can watch a demonstration of it here.

In this new paradigm, setting up your own network and launching new services can be done in minutes. By separating the service layer from the connectivity and infrastructure layers provides for a completely new business environment that will have considerable impacts across the industry. Not only will these virtualized networked remove the need for a variety of dedicated electronics (boxes) in homes and businesses and introduce an array of new capabilities, it may well eliminate the need for costly truck rolls into the future.

However we define it, The Third Network, Network Slicing or our own Application-Aware Networks, there is no doubt that we've hit a strong gallop toward the core goals of 5G. Another recent development in this area involves one of our on partners, the PSCR (Public Safety Communications Research). They've recently published a one pager that provides the architecture for how to configure a mobile network to support Network Slicing with real SLAs.

The structure is basically same as in a fixed network but DP operations require real-time data on the available capacity in a given location and end devices needs to be able to measure their signal strength to determine whether or not the requested service level is feasible.