OPNFV Summit: Are We Moving Too Fast?

Peter Jarich
Peter Jarich

Summary Bullets:

  • Blowing through attendance expectations, the inaugural OPNFV Summit pointed to the distinct market interest in driving NFV platform innovation and interoperability
  • Attendance and participation also help to highlight the key vendors driving the OPNFV effort forward
  • In an effort to maintain OPNFV’s relevance, engagement around strategic technologies – containers, open data plane, analytics – is promising
  • Where many operators are just beginning to embark on their NFV strategy, it may be too much to expect operators to fully embrace these technologies in the near-term

Amongst all the different industry organizations and open-source initiatives trying to drive SDN and NFV forward, it might be easy to overlook OPNFV; it’s one of the newer organizations and a focus on the foundational aspect of NFV platforms isn’t as sexy as SDN controller or VNF development. That 700+ attendees showed up for the initial OPNFV Summit from November 9th to 12th, however, is a testament to the fact that it’s not actually getting overlooked by vendors, operators and industry watchers focused on NFV.

To that end, when we were invited to moderate a keynote panel on “strategic technologies”, we jumped at the opportunity. Beyond the opportunity to connect with companies and people who are moving OPNFV forward, it was an opportunity to build some insights into the organization and the state of NFV.

  • Oh, How Far We’ve Come. While work on OPNFV kicked off before its formal formation last September, the progress made in that year is impressive. Membership ballooned with almost monthly additions of new operator and vendor participants. Arno, the community’s first software release (focused on the NFVI and VIM components of NFV), came out back in June. Perhaps more impressively, it was accompanied by a “community test lab infrastructure” that spans the globe. That’s a lot of work in a short timeframe.
  • Are We Going Too Fast? The industry interest in moving OPNFV forward is understandable; our own research suggests that nearly three-quarters of all service providers are already engaged in commercializing one or more VNFs. Yet, we also hear operators and vendors, alike, claim that IT skills are holding back the speed with which they can move on SDN and NFV. Against this backdrop, can operators be expected to seriously know how to take advantage of (much less contribute into) technologies like containers or open data planes? While OPNFV needs to remain cutting-edge, will too much focus on cutting-edge technologies be a distraction from building a more basic NFV understanding?
  • One Group Too Many? The question of whether or not there are too many projects and organizations focused on SDN and NFV is not a new one. Even the OPNFV’s own survey of telecom professionals highlights this reality; when asking about the importance of six different projects and organizations, only OPNFV was called out by more than 50% of respondents as “very important.” Is it surprising that a survey paid for by OPNFV would suggest that the project is more important than any other? Probably not. Does that indict the finding? Again, probably not. Where any project focused on SDN and NFV will have its own specific focus, the need to build, test, and manage infrastructure that supports multiple VNFs in a standard, scalable way is so fundamental that the interest in OPNFV shouldn’t be surprising.
  • Who’s Driving Things? Beyond the fact that SDN and NFV are multi-faceted technologies, there’s another reason why so many SDN/NFV projects exist. If “Technology Leadership” is part of an operator’s SDN/NFV buying criteria, membership in these projects may help to signal it. This explains why many RFPs ask vendors to list out the projects and organizations they belong to…and many vendors routinely tout them. But, simply belonging to an organization is different from driving it forward. So, how can you determine who is leading the charge with OPNFV? Who is seriously committed to it? A solid proxy for “commitment” is contributions to the project, including the contribution of engineers to OPNFV meetings. Short of that, you might look to the companies well represented at the OPNFV Summit. Taking a look at the Summit’s keynotes and sessions, you’d be hard pressed to overlook the multiple appearances of several companies: AT&T, Cisco, Ericsson, HP, Huawei, and Intel. Sure, others were there as well. But when you see the same names over and over – and see the same people in the Photo Stream – it should tell you something.

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