"...we consistently have conversations with our customers on the operational and organizational changes required to fully adopt a virtualized, cloud-based service and network design, and this continues to be challenge for many."
In a recent interview with TeleSemana, a leading online multimedia publication that covers Latin America's telecom market, Fabio Gatto, General Manager of LATAM at Netcracker, discussed the evolution of network functions virtualization (NFV) and its impact on service providers across the globe.
A translated version of the original interview in Spanish is below.
TeleSemana: How would you describe the telco NFV development at this point in time?
Fabio Gatto: NFV development (and deployment) has made a tremendous amount of progress in just a short time. As the early live deployments have started to demonstrate the viability, we see a broader acceptance of the need to adopt both virtualization and cloud orchestration in the near term plans of our customers. But the progress still faces several hurdles as the many proofs of concept (PoC) and trials of virtualized network functions (VNFs) and software-defined networking (SDN) move forward to commercial deployment.
In many cases, these PoCs have mainly been focused on proving specific technical feasibility and not on how to incorporate the technology into a broader operational environment or how to use the technology to commercialize new services or existing services faster.
In parallel, service providers have started exploring the coordination/program management possibilities through large consulting initiatives, but have not nailed down the technology-driven specifics of SDN/NFV. In addition, we consistently have conversations with our customers on the operational and organizational changes required to fully adopt a virtualized, cloud-based service and network design, and this continues to be challenge for many.
So, the market has progressed very rapidly to date, but there are some big challenges ahead.
TS: In your view what are the main drivers as to why operators are looking to deploy NFV?
FG: Service providers recognize the need to evolve their go-to-market and operation models. They want to remake themselves as more commercially, organizationally and operationally efficient. That’s the end game. But that transformation takes a while. The current pressing need is to achieve greater agility, launch innovative services faster and cheaper while reshaping customer relationships by improving the tools, processes and technology upon which the business operates.
TS: Netcracker has been recognized by Current Analysis as having the most advanced MANO layer. Why is your MANO layer offering better than the rest?
FG: Here's what actually happened: Current Analysis evaluated nine vendors in five categories with 15 specific attributes subjectively graded as comparatively strong, weak or average.
The analyst firm then made an overall assessment and each vendor was graded as "vulnerable," "competitive," "strong," "very strong" or "leader."
Netcracker emerged as the only "leader" in the evaluation due to its technology functionality, sophisticated approach to security and licensing, as well as its flexibility in enabling service providers to onboard virtualized network functions (VNFs) from partners with ease. Our strong heritage in service orchestration for many years gave us a natural advantage in the move to virtualization and complex demands of full VNF lifecycle management.
We're very proud of this recognition but not entirely surprised, as Netcracker has proven again and again to be a company that helps service providers define, instantiate and manage network infrastructure and services in physical networks and in the cloud.
TS: Can we conclude that the MANO layer market is fragmented?
FG: No, that's by no means a given and certainly not for our customers. If service providers want to support and derive value from every aspect of their customers' journey in the digital world, Netcracker can make that happen end to end, in a manner which the objective research shows no one else is can.
TS: We are seeing operators developing their own NFV platforms and then launching them as open source projects, with AT&T being the latest to do so. It feels as if the market is either not giving operators what they are demanding or that traditional telco equipment vendors are not able to move as fast as some operators need them to move. What is your view about this open source phenomenon?
FG: Our understanding is that AT&T contributes to and leverages the open source community to facilitate incremental improvements in its platforms. It's all about time-to-market for them and they are correct that relying too much on telecom equipment vendor-led solutions may not allow them to develop services and solutions as quickly as they'd like.
We don't have a telecom hardware legacy and that helps explain why we're the strategic partner of choice for many global Tier 1 service providers. We have proven best practices and technology, yet we're flexible enough to handle a variety of business models.
TS: Is Netcracker working with any Latin American operator to help them migrate to NFV?
FG: Yes, we have quite a few active accounts now and a number of those in advanced trials or pre-launch stages. We are seeing the activity in the region accelerate dramatically as confidence in NFV in general gathers pace.
What we can say in general is if you visit http://www.netcracker.com/customers/ and sort our customer list, you can see that we've done quite a few projects where we've modernized and consolidated OSS and BSS for service providers in several Latin American countries.
Once we've helped them optimize their existing IT capabilities and their IT infrastructure can support on-demand services and hybrid networks, those service providers are in a very good position to begin making the kinds of organizational and commercial changes required to fully realize the automation of IT and network processes made possible by NFV and SDN.
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