Weeks ago on August, 4th, SK Telecom introduced commercial HP server-based EPC (4G Core) in its commercial network for the first time in Korea. This allows heavy smartphone traffic to be handled by the existing EPC-dedicated equipment, and light IoT traffic to be handled by this new HP server-based EPC.
EPC (Evolved Packet Core) equipment is one of the key elements of network equipment. Most communication-dedicated equipment (H/W+S/W) have been developed by major vendors like Samsung, Cisco, Ericsson, etc. and supplied to network operators.
This type of dedicated equipment always consists of a set of i) a piece of hardware specifically designed by a vendor for certain communication purposes and ii) built-in software programs installed on it. Also, it is pretty pricey and sold as a set only.
What's special about SK Telecom's new virtualization EPC is that it eliminates the necessity of using such vendor-supplied dedicated equipment because the new EPC allows communication software programs to be installed directly in any of the operator's commercial server, instead of performing server virtualization. So what SK Telecom did was to get general-purpose servers from HP, and just software programs from Samsung, without having to get a set of dedicated hardware and software from the vendor.
As far as we know, recently there have been quite a few cases where network operators purchase general-purpose servers from somewhere else, and just software programs from vendors - just like SK Telecom did.
You may find the concept of this new server-based network equipment hard to understand. But, let's think of lots of traffic signs placed along a highway. If road names or traffic rules change, and so you have to replace old signs, then you have to make new signs, physically carry them to the sites, remove old signs, and put new ones, all manually one by one. Lots of time and money.
But, fortunately there is a better way of doing it - use a commercial server as hardware, and just upgrade software programs on it. That is, if you install electronic highway message boards along the highway, then you can easily update messages on the boards in real time by entering messages using a universal display controller at a central location. Real-time and low costs.
It IS a good news for network operators who were not very happy with the circumstance where they had to solely rely on vendor-supplied equipment and even road map. The equipment was hard to customize/operate, and it took months after order to finally deploy them in the operators' commercial networks. Now things are changing. Operators can simply buy any equipment (i.e. servers) they want in the market, and then from vendors, just get software programs they need.
Of course, vendors are not happy with this change. Selling dedicated equipment, a set of hardware and software, gives them much greater profits than selling software only.
When you go see a chiropractor for pain, the chiropractor gives you some chiropractic manipulation, which is the essential and most effective part of the treatment. Then when you pay, you think you are paying hundreds of dollars for just several minutes of pushing, pulling, or twisting your body. You feel cheated. That's why chiropractors shower you with stuff like prescribed chiropractic pillows, and so on, which would not have a major effect on your body. But, now showered with the stuff, you think you are treated very well and you are happy to pay.
If the pillows are hardware, then the chiropractic manipulation is software.
Now, chiropractic pillows with similar effects are available at lower price in the market. So, people can simply buy one in the market and see a chiropractor just for chiropractic manipulation. Looks like vendors are facing the same problem as operators can get hardware somewhere else.