In collaboration with Dell EMC, British Telecommunications (BT) has launched an R&D project to look into the potential benefits of virtualization for telecom networks, using IT equipment classically used in data centers.

The trial is hoped to determine any possible use cases for network functions virtualization (NFV), software defined networking and programmable silicon, including remote activation of Ethernet circuits and the delivery of real time operational data.

Disaggregate the switch 

Based at the Adastral Park science campus in Suffolk, researchers at BT Labs will explore the use of disaggregated, or bare bones network switches, on which to build network infrastructures, rather than the pre-configured switches it currently uses, which are hard to program.

By using SDN equipment, BT believes it may achieve greater flexibility in deploying new network services or upgrades, and gain visibility of network traffic which in turn is hoped to allow for more responsive customer service.

Neil McRae, chief architect for BT, said: “This proof-of-concept trial with Dell EMC will enable us to evaluate the performance of disaggregated switches against traditional integrated network switches, and make informed decisions about the role this kind of solution will play in the dynamic network services of the future.”

“Agility and programmability, maximizing the benefits of SDN, are therefore key to our future network evolution.”