Sam Coleman

The NFV revolution kicks into high gear

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As the benefits of SDN/NFV take the market by storm, a recent Red Hat Telco Partner Summit points to the groundwork that still needs laying, with security concerns a major aspect.

What had started as a slow whispering of a compelling technology and its solutions for telecom operators has now – after the initial analysis of business impact for first tier operators – is getting commitments from most of the companies surveyed according to Red Hat market research. According to Red Hat, a leader in the DevOps, Linux and OpenStack Platform (OSP) space, tier one operators reported the following.

50% of the Communications Service Providers (CSPs) already execute a NFV strategy

29% are in the process of defining their strategy

16% have not yet even decided on a strategy

5% are not currently considering the deployment of NFV platforms

The reason for this pursuit of developing PoCs leading to full-fledged cross platforms is easy to see. One of the compelling reasons for any operator to explore switching to SDN/NFV is its overwhelming economics benefits, both in Capex and Opex. Its virtual architecture allows it to be scaled precisely to the operators’ needs, up or down, without the ‘big irons’ (traditional hardware vendors) rip and replace model that has dominated the industry. And the speed to deliver those benefits – pulling in virtual machines on stream in minutes – is unquestionably persuasive on a business level and for end-users. Still, while the path forward is becoming clearer as standards and industry protocols are agreed on, discussions and implementation strategies abound.

For instance, at the Red Hat Telco Partner Summit, a robust presentation on containers caught many attendees interest. As Damian Nowak, an industry watcher, watcher noted, “Containerization is a lightweight mechanism for isolating running processes so that they are limited to interacting with only their designated resources. The topic was hotly debated as it significantly impacts the technology choice and Total Cost of Ownership. The debate centered on whether containers are ripe for Virtual Network Functions (VNF) consumption or if they are still relegated to web applications – are containers a good idea for everything?” The end conclusion seems to be that – while existing commercial containerized solutions exist – long-term VNFs packaged in containers are seen to be the natural evolution. Seemingly, virtual machines and containers will sit comfortably side by side and complement each other rather than strictly compete.

In one sense, one of the most fascinating aspects of the summit was almost a philosophical one: that proprietary solutions, at this stage, are not in keeping with the open source promise of NFV and its development for standardized operating and adoption. “In such a situation there is a need for vendor collaboration platform, which would allow each of them to offer solutions operating on standardized infrastructure and ensure the portability of the application with different NFV platforms,” Nowak notes.

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