Affirmed Networks: Pioneering Virtualization in the Telecom Industry

Anand Krishnamurthy , President & COO

Anand Krishnamurthy

President & COO

According to most industry experts, 2020 will mark the starting point for the commercial deployment of 5G networks 5G will provide more bandwidth for applications such as enhanced Mobile Broadband(eMBB) and also enable Ultra Reliable & Low Latency Communication (URLLC) functionality and massive Machine Type Communications (mMTC) to support the Internet of Things (IoT). The 5G network will connect millions of people and billions of things, placing higher demands on the network.

"Affirmed helps telecom operators reduce complexity and cost, scale efficiently, and accelerate the creation and deployment of new services"

The adoption by telecom operators of network virtualization technology will be critical in the digital transformation of the networks. Virtualization technology has been used by other industries for years and is now vital to helping telecom operators effectively reduce their total cost of ownership (TCO), achieve business innovation, and evolve to 5G-ready networks. Affirmed Networks goal is to assist telecom operators in their transformation efforts through virtualized, cloud-native mobile network solutions. Affirmed helps telecom operators reduce complexity and cost, scale efficiently, and accelerate the creation and deployment of new services.

Helping Telecoms Say ‘Yes’ to the Future
Affirmed Networks was founded nine years ago to address the challenges that telecom operators were facing. Back then, scaling operations was a major dilemma for telecom operators, given the rapidly increasing demand for capacity and the erosion of fundamental revenue streams such as voice and SMS due to competition from over the top(OTT) applications. At the same time, to keep up with the growing demand for mobile services, operators continued to make Capex investments in their network. Traditionally, to prepare for future servce demands, operators have defaulted to over provisioning installing more hardware and capacity than they need at first to ‘future proof’ their investment. But this approach is costly, and it often takes years for that capacity to be utilized. In addition, these hardware based solutions are quickly outdated, necessitating additional capital spending.

Over provisioning is no longer a sustainable strategy given the complexity, scale, and rapidly evolving nature of next generation networks and the services they deliver. Instead, virtualization provides operators with a better path to efficiently leverage multipurpose, flexible processing power elastically. If the compute power is already installed and has available capacity, growing demands are met with incremental changes.

The Virtualized Evolved Packet Core(vEPC) Arrives
Affirmed’s solution to solve these challenges for telecom operators was the introduction of the virtualized Evolved Packet Core (vEPC) solution. Known as the Affirmed Mobile Content Cloud (MCC), its advanced architecture allows operators to effectively and efficiently scale their networks to keep up with the insatiable demands for mobile
services while dramatically reducing capex and opex. The MCC solution is also designed to help operators deliver differentiated services tailored to specific use cases: consumer services, IoT, private LTE, Wi-Fi, GiLAN, VoLTE, CUPS, fixed wireless, edge compute and 5G services. Using the Affirmed MCC, operators can scale in realtime to handle more traffic, simplify mobile network operations, and rapidly create and launch new services.

While reducing cost is important, telecom
operators still face the challenge of how to grow their revenue. With the advent of 5G, which is a service based architecture, operators needed a solution to improve service agility. It is evident, for example, that the consumer call model would be very different from the forward looking call model of autonomous cars. Therefore, operators required a solution that could not only help them add new network functions but do so quickly. To address this new need, Affirmed Networks built the UnityCloud 5G core. UnityCloud is a webscale, cloud native 5G core solution that allows operators to quickly and easily create, deploy and (if needed) decommission new services with the agility of cloud based companies such as Amazon and Google.

Unitycloud’s operations and policy manager(OPM) automates network and service creation functions, creates policies, and launches dashboards

UnityCloud dramatically reduces the time delay between when a function is added to the solution and when the operator deploys it.

UnityCloud: A Cloud Native, Webscale Solution for 5G
UnityCloud was developed around several guiding design principles. Firstly, it had to be a container based solution. Secondly, it had to use a micro services based architecture so that every functionality offered could be bundled as a collection of microservices. Finally, it had to support network automation to accelerate innovation and improve agility.

Affirmed UnityCloud 5G core (5GC) is a cloud-native solution built on an open, webscale architecture that enables mobile operators to build industry leading 5GC networks that are driven by innovation. UnityCloud has been shown to reduce telecom operators’ network costs by up to 90 percent. UnityCloud converges any G - including 2G, 3G, 4G, 5G core networks and wireline core into one unified platform, greatly simplifying the overall network architecture. UnityCloud consists of a standard Platform as a Service (PaaS) layer that is fully integrated and automated, enabling mobile network operators (MNOs) to quickly respond to changing market needs while freeing them from vendor lock in. UnityCloud’s operations and policy manager (OPM) automates network and service creation functions, creates policies, and launches dashboards. It allows extreme flexibility to run services wherever needed, to meet the changing requirements of the customer and the service.

As Anand Krishnamurthy, President and COO at Affirmed, explains: “We believe that, when we combine our portfolio, it allows operators to essentially offer all services in an agile and cost effective way. At the same time, our solutions help operators identify and take advantage of the service opportunities of 5G. What we’re doing is bringing the power of virtualization and cloudnative technology into the telecom world”. To date Affirmed Networks has deployed its MCC and UnityCloud solutions in over 100 networks, gaining rich experience along the way and building a world class team of virtualization and 5G experts.

UnityCloud: A Foundation for the Future of 5G and Beyond
In a price driven market, maintaining the balance between cost and quality drives many digital transformation strategies. For Affirmed Networks, the trade-off is not as much between quality and price as it is between functionality and price. Typically, a solutions provider should be able to reduce the functionality to fit the price point, without compromising with the quality of the solutions offered. Because Affirmed Networks’ UnityCloud solution is modular, it allows the operator to decide on the cost and functionality of the solution they wish to deploy. Also, in a traditional telco environment, much of the price or expense is associated with the cost of running the network. With Affirmed Networks’ automation solutions, the operators can dramatically reduce their OpEx costs by up to 90 percent. By keeping the equilibrium stable between the price and functionality, telecom operators can reap maximum benefits from their network.

“In an industry like telecom, which is heavily driven by legacy architectures, adoption of cutting edge technology is disruptive,” Krishnamurthy points out. “And we, at Affirmed Networks, feel that we have achieved that as a leading innovator in our fairly short term of operations. We take pride in being the pioneerfor innovation in 5G cloudnativetransformation”. Most solution providers are taking their existing solutions and running them in containers and calling it cloud native, without fundamentally re architecting the solution. Affirmed has built its cloud native solution from the ground up, which means telecom operators can build their future on our platform and continue to grow.

The challenge for Affirmed going forward is to help telecom operators in their pioneering efforts as they enter a new world of virtualization and cloud native technologies. Working in collaboration with operators, Affirmed is leading the telecom industry to leverage virtualization, automation, and agile service models in their efforts to deliver on the promise and the opportunity of 5G around the world. It's a challenge that Affirmed was created to overcome.