While there might have been some doubt in the past, it is now abundantly clear that IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) core networks will be rolled out around the globe in order to support the on-going deployment of voice-over-LTE (VoLTE) services.  It is also apparent that the migration to an all-IP VoLTE world will require IMS core networks to be deployed on a very large scale that will require significant investment by network operators.  For this reason, mobile service providers have been looking into the clouds, IT clouds that is, for a way to cut costs and accelerate service rollout.

With companies such as Facebook and Google cost-effectively handling billions of transactions per day, engineers recognized early on that telecom networks could benefit from IT data center best practices by deploying software-based virtual network functions (VNF’s) on top of low cost COTS hardware platforms.   Starting with the first Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) white paper published in October of 2012, this software-centric approach to building telecom networks has been steadily gaining industry support and momentum.   The NFV architecture provides a lower cost and more agile deployment platform for existing telecom network functionality, such as IMS, and improves business models to the extent that NFV could ultimately be a key to the successful growth of VoLTE IMS networks globally.

However, simply virtualizing an IMS network element, such as a Media Resource Function (MRF), and deploying it within an IT cloud would guarantee neither cost reductions nor service agility, and would likely fall short of meeting existing enterprise service level agreements (SLA’s).  Maintaining carrier-grade performance is fundamental to Service Providers’ superior value proposition vis-à-vis OTT players, and much of the NFV specification effort currently underway is laser focused on this requirement.

In fact, early proof-of-concept trials have already confirmed that real time communication networks can deliver full carrier-grade performance within an NFV platform.  However, in the context of virtual IMS (vIMS) solutions, maintaining carrier-grade quality-of-service requires fundamental redesign of existing monolithic network elements to ensure that end-to-end performance measures, such as latency and packet throughput, do not degrade as traffic loads increase.   

While NFV and virtualized IMS core network elements will be instrumental in driving VoLTE’s long-term growth, existing classic IMS solutions will also continue to be deployed for a long time to come, and the interaction between these two technologies must be supported.  With a portfolio of IMS core network elements, including a fully virtualized Media Resource Function and Media Resource Broker, Dialogic understands how to design and build carrier-grade virtual IMS network elements, and is deeply engaged in the move towards NFV.