Network functions virtualization (NFV) and software-defined networking (SDN) play an integral role in the Internet of Things (IoT) -- and these New IP technologies, coupled with its high-speed wireless communication -- will bolster Verizon's position in this rapidly evolving, yet still nascent market, the company predicts.
"NFV and SDN serve as a really big enabler to IoT," Faraz Shafiq, associate managing director of the IoT Practice for Verizon Enterprise Solutions tells the New IP Agency. "IoT and NFV/SDN go hand-in-hand."
Verizon last week unveiled plans to deploy Category M1 connectivity solutions on its 4G LTE network via an open source environment as part of its ongoing strategy to empower next-generation IoT deployments and disrupt the IoT ecosystem. In partnership with companies such as Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK),
Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) and Sierra Wireless Inc. (Nasdaq: SWIR; Toronto: SW) Verizon is taking on low-power wide-area (LPWA) solutions like LoRa and Sigfox. Because LPWA solutions must build new networks, they have less coverage and scale than Verizon's existing, secure 4G LTE network, says Rosemary McNally, vice president of Mobile Devices and OS Technology at Verizon, in a statement.
The New IP difference
With this IoT stride, Verizon is making good on one of several benefits promised by NFV and SDN: the ability to generate revenue from new business models. Indeed, these New IP technologies underpin Verizon's Cat M1 connectivity, says Shafiq. The service provider leveraged software alone to create its IoT capabilities, avoiding any extra capital investment in hardware, he says. This cuts costs and time to market for enterprises looking to create new services or business units or eliminate manual processes, Shafiq adds.
"With this network, think of this as an underlying, separate network that has the same level of coverage as the LTE network -- but it's optimized for IoT," he says. "It literally reduces the complexity of this. Deployment becomes much easier. You may need to bring in five or six devices in the same environment -- then that needs some kind of centralized automation of policy control -- which you now need to do manually. With software-defined networks you can take out these functions and virtualize them in the core of the network. Your physical layer, no matter how it's communicating, the intelligence can be done in a virtualized manner."
Each time a Verizon IoT customer adds a smartphone, device or sensor, Cat M1 connectivity empowers centralized control, Shafiq says. Traditionally, adding devices to IoT networks is challenging since they often involve multiple operating systems, the gamut of capabilities from "dumb" sensors to sophisticated devices and can extend into tens of thousands of sensors across multiple physical locations.
"With SDN you can control the network virtually, have policy-based control. You can essentially get the network to understand the device and policies. Deployment becomes extremely fast and extremely simple," he says. "The last [benefit] is autonomous optimization. The network can detect where it needs to reconfigure due to stress, capacity issues, any other issues. The network automatically corrects itself without human intervention."
Verizon expects to release Cat M1 by year's end. Within that timeframe, Verizon's enterprise customers continue to delve deeper into complementary technologies NFV and SDN and explore prospective IoT pilots or expanded areas of investment, says Shafiq.
Uses include everything from agricultural to government, manufacturing and education to transportation and utilities, Verizon predicts.
Plugging in to the IoT
"We do expect Category M1 to fuel more deployments. C-level execs are still formulating what this means for them -- IoT, SDN, NFV, 5G -- they're all very, very new initiatives. Customers are still holding back on a strategy level," he says. "That's been the main stopping point. A lot of customers are still trialing and exploring. Because this is using the same LTE network, it is essentially a software upgrade. They're already on LTE. Now they can be in IoT on LTE."
— Alison Diana, Editor, The New IP Agency. Follow her on Twitter @alisoncdiana or @The_New_IP.