Many believe that telcos need to simplify their network operations dramatically to even stand a chance of scaling to cater effectively for future data needs. In response to this, the speed with which the Software Defined Networks and Network Functions Virtualization market has progressed over the last year has been amazing to watch.
Amidst many bold claims by vendors and an aggressive race to dominate the emerging market, there has been a great deal of excitement from all parties about what might be possible in a software-defined, virtualised telco network future.
Many agree that introducing open software and virtualisation at key points across telco networks would offer lower future CAPEX and OPEX, improved time to market for new services, greater network flexibility, openness and better ROI from introducing new services. Between them, software defined networks (SDN) and network functions virtualisation (NFV) hold the potential to permeate into every aspect of an operator’s network – and if intelligently applied, the benefits for telcos could be massive.
Yet despite the talk and hype around SDN and NFV over the last year, actual case studies of SDN and NFV already in operation within telco networks across the world are still relatively few and far between. Google’s and Facebook’s examples in launching their own SDN-based IT data centres have provided lots of inspiration for change, but transforming any existing, massive, lumbering telco network without the freedom to start again from scratch is a costly, time-consuming and difficult business to get right.
So how can SDN and NFV move across most effectively from theory into reality and what are the realistic timescales for them? Are open networks (as opposed to proprietary) an inevitable way forward? Which are the most creative use cases out there? And how can telcos actually make it happen?
The Broadband World Forum will be particularly seeking to address these questions in the Virtualization and the Cloud track at the Broadband World Forum in October 2013, featuring key contributions from the Open Networking Foundation (ONF) and ETSI’s Network Functions Virtualization Industry Specification Group (ETSI NFV ISG) throughout the event. And it seems to me that Network Virtualization will be a major buzzword at the Broadband World Forum this year.
As Diego Lopez from Telefónica said to me recently, “What scenarios are NOT extraordinarily appealing for SDN and NFV? None that I can think of!”. And when you consider how SDN and NFV might be applied in the datacentre, RAN, backhaul, core, services, policy etc… well, the list goes on and on!