Following through on news we first told you about last week, computing giant Hewlett-Packard unveiled its plan to build a new business aimed at giving telecom providers more flexibility to deploy new services, and named Bethany Mayer, the head of its enterprise networking unit, to run it.
In an announcement made at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, HP said it will call its new unit OpenNFV for Network Function Virtualization. In English, NFV is a technology that would give telecom carriers the ability to deploy different services by making changes to the software running on their equipment, without having to go through the expense of switching the physical hardware.
HP is pitching the new service to a crowd of wireless carriers at the tradeshow who have lost money to third party “over-the-top” messaging applications like WhatsApp and Facebook Messages, in part because they don’t have the capability to quickly deploy new services and features. Ovum, a research firm, reckons that these apps cost carriers more than $32 billion in fees they would have collected on SMS messages. They’re eager to compete and make some of that money back if they can.
The way things work now, if a wireless carrier wants to give its customers a new service — say, a new messaging feature — it has to do it by either reconfiguring or even replacing a dedicated and specialized piece of hardware on its network. This is an expensive and laborious process.
Under NFV, that hardware is replaced by a virtual machine that runs as software on standard off-the-shelf hardware. If a new service is more popular, it’s fairly easy to scale up by simply adding more virtual machines.
HP circulated a memo to employees on Feb. 14 announcing that Mayer, currently the head of its $2.5 billion enterprise networking business, would take over as the head of the NFV effort and will eventually devote herself to it full time. Mayer has run HP’s networking business since 2011 and will continue to run it until a new head is named.
Separately, Dell also said it would get into the NFV business and that it would collaborate with software company Red Hat on its effort. They have launched an industry consortium they call CloudNFV. The move builds on a collaboration that the two companies announced in December.