Effective NFV Innovations Come from Collaboration Between Vendors and Creative Telcos?

Glenn Hunt

Glenn Hunt

Summary Bullets:

  • NFV continues to make its way through the demonstration and POC phases; contributions are coming from all levels of the telco ecosystem – small and large vendors and service creative service providers
  • Multi-vendor support and emerging standards play a critical role, even in these early days of trial and error; vendors and operators recognize the reality that both will be required for mass deployment

In two separate press releases that hit the wire this week, it is apparent that network functions virtualization (NFV) is becoming the vehicle that vendors and service providers alike are leveraging to transform the telco network of the past into the future agile service oriented network of the future.

DOCOMO’s release, for example, contained three key threads – multi-vendor engagement, completion of POCs for NFV, and carrier grade attributes such as service stability and automatic network-recovery techniques in the event of hardware failure. Cyan’s release also referenced vendor Red Hat and operator Telefonica, with the operator noting that NFV was an important transformative technology it can use in delivering the predictable performance needed for telco-grade network functions. It is apparent that collaboration between service providers and vendors is the key to success, bringing solutions to the market that address meaningful use cases have the best chance of seeing broad scale deployment. DOCOMO noted that it has been in collaboration with Alcatel-Lucent, Cisco and NEC since November 2013, showing that relatively long term collaborations are needed to deliver meaningful results. Virtualized functions such as evolved packet core and related mobility functions and the telco data center represent priorities for service providers.

Although as critical as NFV is to the future network to perform needed functions/applications, it is also a requirement that operators be able to control network assets and orchestrate service delivery across their networks. In addition to today’s NFV announcements, we have seen the rise of WAN automation capabilities such as Juniper’s NorthStar controller which leverages analytics software derived from its Wandl acquisition and Junos Fusion which uses standard configuration protocols such as NETCONF and YANG; as well as Cisco’s Wide Area Network Automation Engine (WAE) which leverages its Cariden heritage (MATTE); and Cyan’s Blue Planet SDN platform, which address network control, process automation and the optimal placement of NFV resources. It is also apparent that large Tier 1 vendors such as Cisco, Alcatel-Lucent and NEC (as in the case of the DOCOMO announcement) are actively engaged with operators; and in the case of Cyan’s announcement, operator Telefonica and vendor Red Hat comprised the multi-vendor engagement. Both the Cyan and DOCOMO announcements tout the use of standard platforms such as OpenStack, which can be used to form the carrier grade NFV platform and architecture that is needed in the telco environment.

We expect the remaining months of 2014 to be filled with additional NFV and SDN announcements as vendors and operators continue their collaborative efforts in support of the next generation agile and programmable network.

About Glen Hunt
As Principal Analyst of Transport and Routing Infrastructure, Glen analyzes technology, product, and partnership initiatives of vendors who supply carrier infrastructure equipment. Specifically, focusing on vendors that produce core routers, edge switching, optical transport, data center interconnection, mobile backhaul, network management and operational support systems.

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