NFV Has Arrived
Impressions from the 2016 OPNFV Summit
As apparent in the OPNFV summit held a couple months ago, network functions virtualization (NFV) is taking off in terms of popularity. While, the growing interest hasn’t quite been translated into widespread deployment, the underlying concept is obviously building a very wide and diverse fan base. Along with the interest, the list of potential and real inhibitors also keeps growing.
In an effort to make progress, the Linux Foundation held its second annual OPNFV Summit in Berlin, Germany in June 2016. We were in attendance with the over 620 other participants to listen, learn and discuss the opportunities and challenges the open platform for NFV is heralding. Here are some of our key takeaways:
1. NFV Seems To Be a ‘Big Boy Play’
The biggest players in communications seem to be completely focused on NFV, and it’s here to stay. Senior members of most Tier 1 vendors and Service Providers were in attendance to speak about their NFV progress and discuss more about the advancements of open source technology. Only a few Tier 2/3 SPs were seen, which confirms that only organizations with a decent amount of overhead can afford to look into this rather complex topic.
Interestingly, one could make a similar statement about SDN.
2. Spirit of Collaboration in Telecoms
The other noteworthy impression is the spirit of openness and collaboration that was widely expressed at the event. In an industry which has been traditionally closed and proprietary – this is a nice change of pace. But here it was all different… vendors, usually in a clinch, fighting for the next deal are happy to cooperate, as are service providers, who usually rather ‘talk about’ than ‘to’ each other. Has mankind finally changed for the better, or was it the “Berliner Luft”?
Not really, it’s the common understanding that in a market driven by eco-systems and proof of concepts (PoC’s), the classic rules of the game have changed, and you are either in or out. Only time will tell, how long this area of cooperation will last. Currently, not too much classic business has been replaced by NFV-based solutions, and everybody is happy to play the “open” game, which doesn’t hurt yet.
3. Can There Be Too Much Openness?
Speaking about open, let’s take a look at the other side of the coin. It was very difficult to keep track of the competing, albeit open solutions and acronyms in the MANO and Orchestration space. The statement that SDN and NFV have commoditized the adjective “open” has become a running gag, but the industry seems to have reached the next level of complexity. Therefore, one can only speculate about how difficult it is for IT/Network admins to select the right candidates only for further evaluation, let alone for deployment.
Light Reading’s Ray LeMaistre correctly pointed out in his talk about the “Fragmentation of the open source efforts”, how confusing the number of different open source initiatives are. So, we expect that in this market of openness and forced friendships, there is the need for consolidation and (de-facto) standards to reach the predictability required for serious roll outs.
4. WE (Humans) Remain the Biggest Inhibitor to Change
Putting aside inhibitors to change, it’s fair to say that there are enough solutions ready for trials, even deployment, to make Service Providers think about the biggest inhibitor of progress in general and NFV adoption in particular… humans.
Networks are moving to the cloud, functions are virtualized, VNF’s need to be onboarded, and the operational staff needs to:
- follow this in real time,
- learn things on the fly and
- along the way, keep their services going.
Not an easy task, and a big chance for vendors which are close to their customers, making customer intimacy and process understanding a real competitive advantage.
5. How to Turn a POC Into Reality?
Finally, a look at an example of how strongly NFV can improve customer experience and service turn up time… the ETSI PoC #38. This POC demonstrated how business customers can easily modify their services via a service portal.
Based on existing L3 connectivity, the customer’s network admin can set up internet access for certain branches, add Firewall functionality or special URL filtering simply by dragging and dropping options on a simple network map. By clicking on one of the options, which even shows the price per month, then apply it to the target connection, and a few seconds later it’s up and running.
Nice! And yet only a demo☹ Obviously issues like billing and OSS integration need to be solved before going live, there’s no doubt that this is the future.
It will take a while, and many lessons remain to be learned, but NFV is moving fast and the technology is catching up to the theories, so it’s good to be a part of the wave. I have no doubt that it will change telecoms as we know it.
If you want to learn more about making NFV deployments a reality for your company, download our free Mercury(TM) NFV Products brochure for more information.