October 14, 2015

Partnerships, Openness Characterize Next Phases of Virtualization

Common themes during SDN & OpenFlow World Congress include the need for openness and partnerships in order to drive SDN and NFV to the operationalization phase.

If there was any commonality among the diverse set of speakers at the plenary session during SDN & OpenFlow World Congress in Dusseldorf, it revolved around the twin themes of open standards and environments and strong partnerships to move virtualization forward at a rapid pace.

Dan Pitt, Executive Director of the Open Networking Foundation (ONF), kicked off the morning sessions by saying that while the SDN value proposition hasn’t changed – making and saving money – the trend is now more on the making money side, especially on the part of enterprises. But operators are also getting into the mix with Open SDN deployments and other projects based on open source.

In fact, Axel Clauberg, VP of Aggregation, Transport, IP & Fixed Access at Deutsche Telekom, said it’s an open world, not a proprietary one, something the operator is taking into consideration as it plans and rolls out an ambitious slate of projects including cloud VPN. Clauberg added that even if SDN and NFV are relatively young technologies, especially compared to the decades-old IP, a lot has happened in just the past few years with the industry going from SDN getting into the spotlight in 2011; the birth of NFV in 2013; proofs of concept in 2013 and 2014; and finally, commercial deployments in 2015.

David Amzallag, Head of Network Virtualization, SDN & NFV, at Vodafone, discussed open interfaces and said that without a clear strategy and effort, SDN and NFV won’t become a reality. He added that Vodafone has an ambitious goal of delivering a single VPN product for all of its operations worldwide, something that will not be possible without a close relationship with vendors and other partners.

Vodafone operates in dozens of countries, making the operator’s transformation to virtualization very challenging as a project of this magnitude touches everything from budget to human resources. Amzallag said his organization is looking toward multi-vendor design and implementation, because bringing in several vendors can only have a positive impact on Vodafone’s network, services and products, and therefore to customers.

Echoing the need for partnerships and cooperation, Noel Foret, VP of Network Control at Orange, said that ecosystem fragmentation is a real risk and to avoid it standardization will need to play a larger role. Orange’s goal is to implement a fully distributed cloud working with SDN, or as Foret put it, a connected cloud, a massive undertaking that will require working with partners to achieve the plug-and-play environment he’s looking for.

Open to the Future

With a veritable alphabet soup of open source organizations present this week, it can be challenging to determine which group is focused on what, who’s involved in each effort and which are considered more standard than others. What seems clear is that vendors and operators alike see value in open source and the benefits of being involved in a larger effort alongside partners and competitors.

No one entity can go it alone in the complex world of virtualization. It will take the combined efforts of operators, vendors, standards organizations and other partners to make that next major push toward taking SDN and NFV to the next level in large-scale production deployments.

Photo by Marco with Creative Commons license modified with conference logo


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