Two-days of intense focus on what the future holds for carrier networks came to a close today at the Carrier Network Virtualization conference in Palo Alto, CA. Here are some observations, thoughts, and surprises as carriers and their suppliers explore the issues involved in migrating service provider networks to a more agile and cost effective virtualized network infrastructure.
Kicking off the conversation, Michael Howard, a principle analyst for Infonetics reminded the attendees that based on his analysis, Software Defined Networks (SDN) and Network Function Virtualization (NFV) are well beyond the visionary phases and “are here to stay”. His analysis anticipates upwards of $6B in new CAPEX in 2019 for SDN+NFV, much of it spending for Virtual Network Function software and systems for the existing market.
Demonstrating the commitment Verizon has to SDN/NFV, Chris Emmons, Director of Planning at Verizon outlined the strategy that his company has developed, which is based on a bold statement that Chris stated as “I don't want carrier grade, I want the application to be more resilient …" The argument is that what we used to call “carrier-grade” can be accomplished more cost effectively and quickly by developing applications that assume the underlying network has less than perfect reliability. There’s merit in this argument as we’ve been conditioned by wireless carriers that poor coverage and network congestion is a fact of life – get used to it. And we have. As part of Chris’ presentation, he noted that “Verizon has committed to move every one of their applications to SDN/NFV over the next few years”.
Another carrier perspective was shared by Andre Beijin from KPN, the Dutch incumbent carrier. During Andre’s opening comments, he noted that increasing data consumption is a heavy burden for service providers and unless some bold move is made, they will “bleed to death unless something is done”. Andre then explained that KPN is committed to migrate their network to adopt NFV applications, but warned against a like-for-like replacement strategy, substituting a more complex NFV application that may be more difficult to build, deploy, and support. Andre also pointed out that organizational changes are just as important as the technical advantages. The personnel that has to sell, support and deploy new NFV solutions need to all be coordinated, otherwise engineers will build things that “our sales teams don’t understand and can’t sell”. The point being that organizations need to change along with the technology to achieve the gains promised with a network transformation.
Our own Thomas Schroer, Director of Segment Marketing participated in a panel discussing the management and orchestration of NFV networks and applications. A key observations noted by Tom was that moving to virtualized environments does require some rethinking of architecture. As Tom said, "you can't just take software from a purpose-built element and drop it in a virtualized environment - it just doesn't work that way". Tom continued noting that most migrations to NFV would be best served with a migration strategy that includes a decomposition of the functions, allowing individual functions to become building blocks of a virtualized solution. With this strategy, applications can be more resilient and avoid the need for a “five nines” network to be reliable and effective.
The Carrier Network Virtualization event was a real eye-opener for me. Not just from a technical perspective, but from the impact that people will have on the design, implementation, and selling the network of the future. It’s clear that NFV will become part of our network, but will you?
To learn more about the Dialogic NFV strategy, download Dialogic Cloud-Ready Solutions: A Smart Approach to NFV Applications.