NFV:  Where is the Light at the end of the Tunnel?

The Network Function Virtualization and Software-defined Networking market is thriving — proofs-of-concept (PoCs) are moving into the commercialized phase this year which are driving a significant increase in the adoption of SDN/NFV-related technology.   This is leading to an increase in spending on SDN/NFV projects linked to the reallocation of budgets away from traditional hardware and software.

The demand for SDN / NFV is high – and the right available resources with corresponding skill sets will be critical to accelerate deployments.

Here are (5) key ideas to keep top of mind as you move forward in this business transformation:

  1. New Business Models are Emerging
    • Virtualization is affecting the international balance of technology power – it will be key to embrace the global marketplace to change our business models accordingly.
    • The initial business models will evolve based on different use cases and how costs (TCO) change over time with technology and efficient automation and workflow. Low touch and self-service for certain services will be drivers for increasing adoptions of new services. This will have a profound impact on the post support models as well.
    • Revenue models will also evolve based on pricing and various demand models (because even more important for applications like Bandwidth on Demand) and the ability to support and automate various pricing engines and reporting tools.
  2. Cross-Functional Team Effort is Required
    • SDN and NFV solve networking problems using equipment and software designed for IT. That means the teams responsible for each need to collaborate.
    • Need to work unified to not risk splintering and slowing the pace of network transformation.
    • You may work to combine the roles of CIO and CTO and then work with Business Unit Leaders and Chief Marketing officer (or product managers) to create a single vision that leverages technology to drive more innovative services.
    • Having the right set of skills
      • Not just Network Engineers; now its network and software engineers, programmers, scripters, cloud engineers, etc.
      • Companies will need to cover this training gap themselves, as most schools specialize these jobs. Plus, the need to work with various standards and participating in various forums will be essential as each functional leader and department increases their knowledge on this technology (from the Lab to the POC to the Production).
  3. Proprietary hardware to NFV / Open Standard
    • Proprietary hardware can be limited when Service Providers operate in a multi-vendor environment and an open environment (from their internal use to commercial use, etc.) and includes several different use cases, such as :
      • SDN & NFV with Service Orchestration
      • Virtual CPE & Service Enhancement
      • Mobility Virtualization w/ OSS/BSS Integration
      • WAN Optimization & Innovation
      • Policy Driven Application Provisioning & Delivery
      • Dynamic Bandwidth & Network Access
  4. Exploring Vendor Openness
    • Software and hardware needs to be tested together for compatibility.
    • Proprietary orchestration extensions require hardware validation up and down the stack.
    • Layering security into the mix adds another layer complexity and interoperability, including policies.
  5. Moving Beyond Virtualization
    • Still more to do after network operators break vendor lock-in to open doors (this is a good place to start to get the foundation ready).
    • Just rewriting software isn’t enough. It only exchanges one hardware for another.
    • Network operators must disaggregate VNFs to unlock the power of NFV.
    • Ultimate goal is to decompose VNFs into micro services, containers can help do this because they require fewer compute resources.
    • The ability to scale across the network (in terms of transactions) will be essential.

The path forward for communications service providers will vary but the ability to leverage this technology now with a 360 view will help address some of the early concerns. These concerns will change over now (some will be resolved, new ones will be added) as technology matures and more POC’s are executed.  And lastly, the ability to launch new services and change the paradigm will require available resources with the right skills to leverage a variety of technology stacks in an agile environment.