From Clean Slate SDN at Stanford University in 2007 to SDN & OpenFlow World Congress in 2015, the software-defined networking and network functions virtualization (NFV) effort has come a very long way. Virtualization began life as a way to rethink the Internet by starting from scratch, hence the Clean Slate nomenclature. After 8 years, the movement has grown into no less than a total overhaul of the entire communications network in what’s considered the biggest disruption to the industry in at least a decade.
At this point, the debate on the merits of SDN and NFV are largely over. Operators and their suppliers understand the benefits of virtualization and are ready to start realizing lower costs, improved agility and flexibility and the ability to offer services quickly, efficiently and tear them down in the same manner.
The next step in the SDN/NFV conversation is how to go from where the industry is today – which largely consists of demos and proofs of concepts – to full operationalization of commercial deployments. This migration will not be an easy one, but is absolutely critical for virtualization uptake and for operators to start reaping the rewards.
Changing the Conversation
Operationalization will be a major theme this week at SDN & OpenFlow World Congress in Dusseldorf, where attendees will hear speakers discuss a wide range of related issues. A natural starting point will be the business case for NFV to prove there is value in undertaking a serious shift in network architecture. A great example of this is vCPE, which removes complexity for operators, allows them to quickly bring new services to market without the expense of truck rolls and improves control they have over services.
Another key area that needs to be addressed in SDN and NFV is management and orchestration, which alongside a modernized BSS/OSS will be absolutely essential given that for the next decade or two many operators will find themselves with hybrid environments. BSS and OSS will need to be able to perform tasks across physical and virtual functions without missing a beat.
Operationalization will naturally lead to new revenue streams for operators, including the ability for them to offer new and compelling business services to better compete against OTT players. This could include voice and video services but also cloud-based security, file sharing and a whole host of other offerings that will be directly enabled through a virtualized infrastructure.
In addition to business services, operators will be able to gain significant ground in areas such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and 5G networks by operationalizing SDN and NFV. These networks of the future will benefit greatly from a more flexible foundation – consisting of automation plus the ability to use standard equipment – to support the billions of devices forecast for the IoT in just the next few years.
Making SDN and NFV a Reality
For the first few years since their inception, SDN and NFV grabbed a lot of headlines and created more buzz in the industry since the introduction of IP. But it’s only in the past year that the prospect of virtualization has become real, with lab tests, demos and small-scale rollouts. And now operators are rolling up their sleeves and focusing on the next steps. After a week at SDN & OpenFlow World Congress, hopefully many of the challenges that lie ahead will be resolved, with solid answers for operators ready for the next steps.
Note: Content also appears on OSS News Review.
Photo by Michel with Creative Commons license
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