NSN is making another wave in the market, this time by extending the notion of adaptive networking in the mobile/EPC world from the RAN (where its product is Liquid Radio) to the network core, with Liquid Net (including Liquid Core and Liquid Transport). These products are aimed mostly at the mobile/metro space, where the explosion in wireless traffic has created considerable stress on access infrastructure. Mobile services, because of the dramatic changes in mass-user location through the day and week, can strand considerable capacity and NSN is aiming to let operators run their metro networks more efficiently, freeing capacity and optimizing traffic routing for performance. Underneath the covers, this is all a part of a shift by NSN toward a more cloud-based network infrastructure, something we’ve noted even in the way that it supports the service layer. By hosting the “Liquid Core” logic of mobility and gateway functionality (IMS and the related elements like SGSN, MGW, etc plus the circuit- and packet-switched network) at the control level on ATCA platforms, NSN is focusing itself on functionality and not on hardware, an exceptionally smart move in a market that’s crying out for network vendors to embrace a more hosted mindset.
What’s particularly interesting to me here is that NSN has been a wallflower for ages now, a player who barely articulated anything. Now suddenly it’s getting not only smart but very smart. What will be interesting to see is how this impacts the rest of the players. NSN is strong in mobile and metro but not particularly so in the IP layer, where it OEMs gear from Juniper. You could argue that the ATCA position of Liquid Core is calculated to refocus investment and management attention on something NSN does make, taking it from what they don’t. Might that then undermine IP devices? Might Ericsson, who has a similar problem of IP-layer incumbency, follow suit and create a trend? What will Alcatel-Lucent, Cisco, and especially Juniper do?
Liquid Core could also make EPC (Enhanced Packet Core) more of a mainstream issue. There’s been some back-and-forth between whether metro infrastructure should have a lot of EPC or as little as possible, and the notion of “core liquidity” or flexibility and controllability through EPC could catch on even outside the pure mobile space. That would again pose questions for traditional metro players who have no strong mobile position, Cisco and Juniper again.