October 13, 2016

Virtualization and Orchestration Create New Opportunities for Service Providers

Service providers are eager to evolve their networks in order to create new business value and deliver an unparalleled customer experience, but will need to overcome some obstacles first.

The theme on Wednesday at SDN & OpenFlow World Congress seemed to be synergy, as discussions and sessions gravitated toward how coming together is the key to bringing virtualization to life and commercializing it in the real world.

During the morning keynotes, several speakers pointed out that while software-defined networking (SDN) needs network functions virtualization (NFV) and vice versa, both of them need another component, management and orchestration, in order to create an even more compelling platform to advance business use cases, including SD-WAN. The Director General of ETSI, Luis Jorge Romero, said that while his organization is best known for its efforts to standardize NFV, the standards body is moving beyond just that and is embracing next-generation protocols such as Mobile Edge Computing (MEC) and Open Source management and orchestration in an effort to enable new business development.

Once these standards, protocols and infrastructure are in place, service providers can visualize the opportunity to go beyond basic connectivity services and instead branch out into newer on-demand and value-added services, including cloud-based applications and network services. They can also work closely with the vendor community to deliver a wide range of offerings.

The French service provider Orange is already on the second generation of its SDN service, which necessitated a complete network overhaul. This included deploying 40 SDN points of presence by 2018 in order to run virtual services as close to customer as possible. Orange has also rolled out a global SDN orchestrator and a new OSS stack for SDN. The service provider does point to areas that still need some work in order to deliver SDN/NFV at scale, such as VNF onboarding, analytics and standardization.

China Unicom has also introduced a next-generation network architecture, CUBE - Net 2.0, which relies heavily on SDN/NFV and the cloud to deliver Network as a Service (NaaS) and other value-added services. The Chinese service provider has found that its enterprise customers have very specific requirements that need to be addressed, including quick responses to requirement changes, automatic service provisioning, self-care, easy maintenance, the rapid creation of new services and high reliability with low latency.

According to China Unicom, SDN/NFV can support converged ICT services such as Layer 2/Layer 3 VPN on demand, cloud access, elastic WAN transport for data center integration, virtual value-added service provisioning and more all under the banner of virtual NaaS.

While many service providers are moving deeper into virtualization and are making serious progress in monetizing those investments, there are still challenges to overcome. These include internal organizational changes, avoiding vendor lock-in by working within open ecosystems and hiring and retaining top talent. But the many benefits outweigh these shifts and should result in service providers opening up new markets, creating new service opportunities and bringing new and improved experiences to their customers.


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