May 20, 2016

The Big Dance: Pick Your Partners Carefully for Virtualization

Without a shift in a service provider’s business and help from a partner ecosystem, the IT and network process automation made possible by SDN/NFV won’t happen in time.

We often hear that network functions virtualization (NFV) and software-defined networking (SDN) are developing too slowly and are still a long way from becoming operational. This is understandably a common theme in the communications industry. SDN/NFV significantly changes the way service providers design networks and deliver services and important transformations like this do not happen overnight.

Operationalizing new virtualized environments is challenging, as doing so requires bringing together moving parts from a variety of vendors, some of which will be companies that service providers have never worked with before. Comparatively, this ecosystem is like a large ballroom full of dancers and each of them needs to be paired with the right partner. For a service provider, choreographing all these partnerships and processes in such a large and diverse environment can be daunting.

Some traditional telco vendors are building virtualization solutions based on a “bottom-up” approach. The foundation of these solutions is a virtualized version of a previously dedicated hardware-based product, upon which additional orchestration capabilities and other features have been built. This demonstrates that many companies are finding it tough to move away from the gravitational pull of legacy equipment.

The problem with this “box” mentality is that service providers won’t get the real benefits of SDN/NFV, that is, they won’t be able to avoid vendor lock-in or select best-of-breed products. The bottom-up approach also does not address the more pressing needs that service providers have for systems integration

Netcracker and other software vendors are taking a more “top-down” approach to making SDN/NFV work inside service provider networks. We’re demystifying the complex array of partnerships and processes required to operationalize SDN/NFV at scale. This approach enables the implementation of a truly multivendor system. It also eases the complexity of operating hybrid networks in which legacy systems need to be maintained and integrated during the migration to SDN/NFV.

For more information, please watch my latest video interview on NEC’s and Netcracker’s approach to SDN/NFV:



Filling the functional gaps

So what’s still missing? Primary systems integration. Service providers need a primary systems integrator to glue all the SDN and NFV parts together in order to implement large-scale, software-based, virtualized networks.

In network virtualization, the software that controls the network is decoupled from the network hardware. Similarly, the services that a provider delivers to its customers should be decoupled from the processes of vendor selection, implementation and integration. If that happens, service providers will be free to create the services that their customers want most or the ones that help their business by making them more competitive companies. If that doesn’t happen, service providers will be, for example, spending time and money rolling out new voicemail features when their customers are much more interested in mobile video services.

Netcracker has several important advantages that make it a strong partner for service providers that are discussing SDN/NFV commercialization. From our strength as a leading OSS/BSS vendor, we know how to build strategic partnerships to create end-to-end solutions. The ability to integrate various components from legacy systems, physical hardware and software across a broad and varied ecosystem of suppliers is in our DNA. Our system integration expertise, combined with our Agile and DevOps processes, can take SDN/NFV into the next stage of growth and dramatically accelerate deployments at scale.


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