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Interview with Renu Navale, Senior Strategy Manager, Communications & Storage Infrastructure Group, Intel

Renu NavaleIn the build-up to Informa’s Network Virtualization & SDN World conference in London on 27-30 May 2014, we caught up with Renu Navale, Senior Strategy Manager, Communications & Storage Infrastructure Group at Intel, to find out her thoughts on the latest developments within the industry.

Welcome, Renu. What would you say has had the largest impact in terms of progressing SDN and NFV in telecom networks to date?

RN: Four tectonic shifts are fuelling a transformation in networking:

First, cloud has become the compute paradigm: Cloud has opened up new business models where compute can be purchased and provisioned on demand anywhere on the globe. This compute-on-demand model increases pressure on the network to keep up – to the point where networking is becoming a bottleneck and CapEX and OpEx models aren’t sustainable.

Next, there’s the emergence of Open Standards for Networking: The rise of software-defined networking has spawned a number of open standards that pave the way for an open ecosystem for networking solutions. Key examples include OpenFlow, Open vSwitch, and OpenStack.

Network Virtualization on the Rise: Server and storage virtualization have been around for years, allowing workload consolidation or pooling and provisioning of resources without regard for their physical locations. Now virtualization has extended to networking. Network virtualization allows IT to combine different physical networks into a single virtual network, or split a physical network into multiple virtual networks that are isolated from each other.

And finally, Moore’s Law Expands to Networking: Through the evolution of Moore’s Law and Intel library software optimization, Intel Architecture-based systems are now able to perform networking workloads on commercial off the shelf servers that once required ASICs and FPGAs utilized in dedicated proprietary appliances.

Do you feel that the industry is making as much progress towards implementing SDN and NFV this year as you would like?

RN: The rate of industry engagement in NFV is fantastic, with over 200 companies now signed up to the ETSI NFV initiative in record timescales.  During 2014, we anticipate a downturn in publicity in line with the Gartner “Hype Cycle”, but there’s actually massive progress behind the scenes.

How is your company contributing to the realisation of SDN and NFV at present?

RN: Intel is leading the acceleration to an Open Network Transformation by enabling the delivery of “Best in Class” SDN & NFV solutions through:

  • Creation of reference platforms via the Development & Integration of Intel building blocks (we are introducing a portfolio of associated hardware and software products
  • Contributions to Standards, Open Source and Open interfaces (we are active in several SDN and NFV PoC and Standards initiatives across the ETSI, ONF, DMTF, and ODCA communities)
  • Collaborations & industry partnerships

What do you think are the biggest hurdles towards implementing SDN and NFV at present, and how can they be overcome?

RN: The key challenges are proving the operational scalability of SDN & NFV to carrier levels, and the consolidation of IT and Network operations to handle the rate of service evolution demanded by the market.  We are handling these by engaging in trials with several operators who are progressively expanding the scale of projects and associated risk mitigation. It is critical for the technology and business practices to complement each other to enable an operationally sound roll out of SDN/NFV. Other challenges are rollout of standards, vendor lock-in, and inter-operability challenges. An open and collaborative environment is critical to overcome this hurdle.

Which areas of the network do you think should be prioritised for virtualization, and why?

RN: We see virtualised Enterprise CPE as a great stepping stone for operators wanting to get started with production services, where the network speeds and the business risk are relatively low and the operations staff can get experience with an integrated IT and Network service approach. The “Services LAN” in both Fixed and Mobile Broadband networks looks like another key location to provide rapid service differentiation, intelligent handling of growing video traffic demands, and handle ever-increasing security challenges from Internet based threats.

What are your expectations for the development of SDN and virtualization in telco networks in coming years?

RN: We expect virtualisation of Telco networks to be widespread, with the introduction of NFV infrastructure in Access, Regional and Centralised network nodes, enabling “right placement” of applications to suit operational requirements. The adoption of SDN could be slower, as (unlike the datacentre case) centralised management of carrier infrastructure has been available for many years.        

Which company do you most admire in the SDN / NFV space, and why?

RN: I think Intel’s approach to SDN and NFV is exemplary, based on the unflinching commitment to Open standards and enabling an entire market for the common good.

One company other than Intel would be AT&T…I think their Supplier Domain 2.0 initiative, coupled with their AT&T Foundry investments to lower the barrier to innovation – and their support of both large and small companies (Ericsson, Tail-f, Affirmed, Metaswitch, etc…) – is very disruptive and market-leading.

Network Virtualization & SDN World takes place in London on 27-30 May 2014. Renu will be delivering Intel’s key messages in a prominent keynote presentation at on the morning of Thursday 29th May. To find out more and to sign up for the event, please visit