NFV MANO Templating: Being “Open” with Your Hard-Won Experience Becomes a New Competitive Differentiator

David Snow - Principal Analyst, IP Services Infrastructure
David Snow – Principal Analyst, IP Services Infrastructure

Summary Bullets:

  • December 2016 saw a flurry of high impact NFV MANO market developments and suddenly everyone is talking “templating.”
  • Contributing VNF templating experience and tools to the “open” market does not come naturally to telecom vendors, but it’s now well on its way to being a competitive advantage.

Though it’s still early days, December 2016 was something of a high spot for NFV MANO.

During the month, AT&T proudly announced that it had finally got some public operator buy-in for ECOMP, reporting that first Orange and then Bell Canada were testing its platform. After that, a rather uninspiring term, templating, came to the fore and suddenly became a “hot topic”.

To understand the significance of templating, AT&T’s analogy of today’s VNFs being “more like snowflakes than Lego blocks” goes straight to the point. Generally speaking, an NFV MANO system currently needs to be highly customized in order to accommodate and orchestrate VNFs from multiple vendors which are at various stages of “cloud-native” maturity. What’s needed is for all VNFs to conform to a standard template (think “Lego block”) in order to fit smoothly into the MANO and not require any special treatment. The problem is that the standard template is still very much a “work in progress” within ETSI while the cutting edge work is being done by vendors, advanced operators and other industry groups, notably under the auspices of TOSCA (Topology and Orchestration Specification for Cloud Applications).

So what did we see in December?

  • On December 5, 2016 Nokia aimed at closing the gap between ETSI NFV and TOSCA work for operators and VNF developers by announcing and publishing the CloudBand open templating system. Current Analysis covered the announcement here. At the same time Nokia highlighted its VNF onboarding experience and the standards-compliance of its MANO offering.
  • On December 13, 2016 Ciena asserted in a blog post that while the template approach has long been a feature of multi-domain service orchestration at the OSS level, it now also provides the means of deploying network services in SDN and NFV networks. Naturally, Ciena stressed the capabilities of its Blue Planet offering in both realms.
  • Also on December 13, 2016 Comptel described its experience in creating a vEPC network service descriptor (NSD) using TOSCA standards and Open Baton as inputs. Comptel even went as far as publishing the resultant vEPC NSD template in the blog for public consumption.

Apart from the obvious emphasis on the need to establish NFV MANO templating on a standard footing, these announcements also illustrate how far more “open” vendors are becoming in releasing hard-won intellectual property into the market. In fact, it could almost now be the case that the more “open” a vendor is, the more competitive they actually become. It’s counter-intuitive and a hard lesson for some telecom vendors to learn but, at the end of the day, in the world of NFV, openness will benefit everyone. Expect to see more of this in 2017.

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