October 15, 2015

Operators Make Their Virtualization Demands

Operators at SDN & OpenFlow World Congress say multi-vendor environments and standards are among their requirements to push virtualization projects forward.

With a diverse mix of operators, vendors, standards organizations and others who form the broad ecosystem for virtualization, there are bound to be widely divergent views on what the industry should do, when it should do it and how it should do it. But one thing seems clear: it’s going to be the operators that really drive what happens with SDN and NFV.

Operators are the ones taking the risk, stretching their budgets and expending the energy and resources to move down the virtualization road. And while the benefits of SDN and NFV are crystal clear, the path to realize then doesn’t necessarily follow a straight line.

According to Michael Howard, Senior Research Director, Carrier Networks, at IHS, there are three distinct markets within SDN and NFV: carrier SDN, data center and enterprise SDN and NFV. According to Howard’s research, of a projected total $30 billion combined market in 2019, only $6 billion will be new spend, with the rest constituting existing or displaced numbers.

Specifically, within the SDN space, only 25 percent of spending in 2019 will be new, going toward things like orchestration and controllers, network applications and outsourced services. Only 10 percent of NFV spending will be new, constituting NFV MANO and outsourced services.

So the market is pushing ahead but in unexpected ways. Howard went on to say that there are two primary drivers and two primary barriers to carrier SDN and NFV. He cited drivers as service agility for quicker time to revenue and a global view across multi-domain, multi-vendor networks. For barriers, he mentioned that the software is not yet carrier grade as well as ongoing concerns around how to interoperate both physical and virtual functions in existing networks.

Sticking with the subject of carriers, Howard also said that carriers are clamoring for support of the NETCONF protocol and YANG data modeling language, which he said are on their way as vendors ramp up including them in routers, Carrier Ethernet switches and optical transport products.

The Operators’ Side of the Story

Continuing on the subject of what carriers are doing, Hiroshi Nakamura, Senior Vice President of R&D Strategy at NTT DOCOMO presented an update of his company’s plans for virtualization, saying that he expects to have a commercial vEPC deployment in place by March 2016. This follows on from a proof of concept in early 2014 involving three vendors, and an expanded version later in the year that added three additional vendors to the project.

Nakamura added that standardization is necessary to realize a multi-vendor environment, which is very important to the operator. He said standard interfaces to enable multi-vendor apps and interfaces between existing BSS/OSS will need to be available for large-scale deployments.

He went on to say that in the future, he’d like to see the extension of SDN across data centers in order to get more usage out of resources, especially in the case of natural disasters, something that hit DOCOMO’s home country of Japan extremely hard during the 2011 earthquake. Nakamura said traffic volume on the carrier’s network spiked 60 times above normal, which DOCOMO couldn’t support.

He closed by saying SDN and NFV can be put into practice today, and operators do not need to wait until 5G deployments.

Mirko Voltolini, VP Technology and Architecture at Colt, said that his company started its transformation project in 2009, going from a very siloed approach to one that would support multiple vendors, which seems to be a common theme among operators. Colt’s project, called Novitas, will enable network services to be used, provisioned and orchestrated in real time and on demand with resulting reduced costs, improved time to market and the ability to turn up new services in a more agile manner. This massive project will impact all aspects of Colt’s business but will result in its customers having the ability to self-provision services in near real time or real time with flexible services.

As operators make their demands known, the rest of the industry is taking notice. With major transformation projects already underway at many organizations, it’ll take a lot of cooperation and collaboration to make the shift to a virtualized infrastructure.

Photo by Kārlis Dambrāns with Creative Commons license


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