NFV MANO – Entering Yet Another Bout of Turbulence

David Snow – Principal Analyst, IP Services Infrastructure

Summary Bullets:

  • Turbulence in the NFV MANO market is high; that can be good to shakeout problems, but it also makes for an uncomfortable flight.
  • Some operators have decided to take matters into their own hands; others are engaging a trusted vendor to “just make it work”.

As with any long haul flight, the risk of experiencing periods of turbulence is ever present.  The flight metaphor is also appropriate to long haul telecom network transformation projects, and NFV is certainly the largest to be navigated by the industry in the past 20 years. The NFV management and network orchestration (MANO) architectural block is a good indicator of the “flight status” of the whole NFV project, which now seems to be entering a new phase of turbulence. A couple of recent announcements have highlighted some major, and sometimes forgotten, basics:

  • Operator-Originated NFV MANO Revives

Earlier this month, SK Telecom announced that it has “commercialized” its own ‘T-MANO’ platform to overcome challenges in integrating disparate vendor NFV MANO platforms. With AT&T unashamedly pushing ECOMP-fueled ONAP as the de facto standard” and China Mobile appearing to subsume its own MANO development into Open-O (and then also into ONAP), it’s easy to forget that some large operators are determined to sort out MANO by themselves. It’s a reminder that it’s actually operators who are “in charge”, not vendors or even open source projects, however influential.

  • The VNF and VNFM-S Revives

A bit lower down the headline table, but nonetheless significant, Sonus Networks went public on July 25 expressing its view on the advantages of a vendor-specific VNF Manager. Sonus reported that “the implementation of a Sonus VNFM is the agreed-to architectural solution, because it enables advanced features based on specific knowledge of the VNF applications”. That’s a view which runs counter to the prevailing shift toward generic VNF Managers and generic orchestration.  Apart from the fact that Sonus’ Tier 1 customer evidently agreed to this, it’s also a reminder that the VNF, and the communications services it supports, actually provides the operator with revenue-earning capability.

These instances are only the “tip of the iceberg” of widespread NFV MANO turbulence that GlobalData is currently witnessing, as different and conflicting perspectives emerge from many quarters.  In other words, NFV MANO turbulence is high.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing longer term, since new and forgotten issues come to the fore for resolution, but it’s certainly uncomfortable shorter term.

Returning to the flight metaphor, high turbulence ahead can result in a pilot deciding to curtail the flight in order to land safely before reaching its original destination.  Similarly, it now seems as if some operators have decided to postpone their original intentions for multi-vendor, “standards-based” NFV and MANO, in order to play safe and at least start to earn money with what they have built so far. Some, perhaps like SKT, are taking matters into their own hands, while others are engaging a trusted vendor to “just make it work” (and get back to the original flight plan later).

That may be a wise decision – for there’s certainly more NFV MANO turbulence to come before NFV’s original destination reappears on the horizon.

About David Snow
As Principal Analyst for Service Provider Infrastructure, David is responsible for tracking the evolution and key developments within the IP Services Infrastructure market. His coverage areas include Hosted Multimedia Application Servers, IP Multimedia Subsystems (IMS), Mobile Softswitching, Policy Control, Service Delivery Platforms (SDPs), Session Border Controls (SBCs) and Softswitches.

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