Measuring Market Share or Assessing Deployability? NFV Increases the Stakes

David Snow
David Snow

Summary Bullets:

  • Market share has always been a blunt instrument in assessing a product’s ‘deployability.’
  • NFV raises the product deployability stakes and the transition to NFV will raise it even more.

One of the occupational hazards of being a Current Analysis analyst is the flak you attract when designating a vendor’s product a ‘leader’ in a particular segment. Sometimes, and usually very shortly afterwards, a company whose product is not given leader status challenges the call, and more often than not, it’s on the basis of better market share. They say, “If we sell more stuff, then we must be better, OK? The market thinks so, even if you don’t.”

This reaction needs unpicking a little, especially in the light of NFV.

To highlight the fundamental point straightaway, Current Analysis rates products on much more than market share; we use multiple ‘selection/buying criteria,’ e.g., features, performance, standards, interoperability, support, etc. It comes as a surprise to some vendors that we are actually writing to help carriers get an all-round view of a product, not just the vendor community, which is often fixated by market share position.

Market share is only part of the story and depends on what you count. A much bigger, and better, term is ‘deployability.’ Just how easy is it for a carrier to get this or that product into the network and working? That’s far more important to an operator than whether a particular product has the most sophisticated feature set or the highest performance compared with its rivals.

This brings us onto the impact of NFV. If there’s any technology shift which epitomizes the concept of deployability, then it’s NFV. It is exactly ‘what operators want’ – the ability to deploy products as needed, on demand and with the minimum of effort on the operator’s part as well as from the vendor after deployment. NFV is going to revolutionize the way in which products are assessed and compared with each other.

  • With the de-emphasizing of the hardware and software infrastructure (that will be common across multiple VNFs) and product performance (need more? just spin up another VM), differentiation will be far more about genuine product features and functionality. It will be a more level playing field; the network will become a ‘democratized’ platform.
  • Products will still be assessed on their deployability, but now it will be about the ease of deployment into a carrier’s MANO environment, not a physical network. Does it come with its own VNFM? How efficient and well-adapted are its computing resource requests? Which NFV ecosystems has it run under? Overall, there will be increased emphasis on a product’s self-management capabilities.
  • The transition to NFV will also throw up some tricky situations which will give rise to new deployability attributes. Is there feature parity between virtualized and non-virtualized products? How is traffic balanced across virtual and physical resources? How efficiently has the data plane been virtualized in order to avoid bottlenecks? Smooth migration is the name of the game.

So, all in all, ‘deployability’ is going to take center stage as networks move inexorably towards NFV. Returning to the issue of market share, while it is certainly one indicator, it can never tell the whole deployability story, and when it comes to an operator choosing the best product for its network, it will always be a blunt instrument. NFV, and especially the transition to NFV, is not only going to challenge the way in which market share is calculated, but also provide new ways in which to differentiate products; and that’s what Current Analysis does.

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