In advance of Network Virtualization & SDN World in London on 27-30 May 2014, we caught up with Shahar Steiff, AVP of Business Operations, PCCW Global, to find out his thoughts on the industry in 2014…
Shahar, welcome. What would you say has had the largest impact in terms of progressing SDN and NFV in telecom networks to date?
SS: “If we have to take one event this year that made the largest impact on the future of SDN and NFV, I would say it is AT&T’s publishing its “Domain 2.0 Vision”. When one of the world’s largest carriers announces its support of SDN and NFV technologies, it provides the whole industry assurance that their efforts are spent in the right direction. And using AT&T’s own words: “Domain 2.0 is not a completed architecture or technology plan; rather it sets direction. There remains much to do…”
2) Do you feel that the industry is making as much progress towards implementing SDN and NFV this year as you would like?
SS: “The industry is still in “hype” mode when it comes to SDN and NFV. Several limited test cases have been proven to work, but the business case is still unclear. In addition to that, the majority of the work and progress is limited to the “comfort zone” of the data-centre, where SDN and NFV were conceived, while developments related to carrier networks and mobile networks are still at infancy.”
How is your company contributing to the realisation of SDN and NFV at present?
SS: “PCCW Global is a contributing member at several of the Industry Standard-Defining-Organizations, such as MEF, ONF, 3GPP.
“At PCCW Global we believe that the industry as a whole will benefit from convergence towards standardized APIs that will allow vendor agnostic abstraction and virtualization.”
What do you think are the biggest hurdles towards implementing SDN and NFV at present, and how can they be overcome?
SS: “Implementation of SDN and NFV is effected by three factors:
a. The technology is still maturing and has limited commercially available solutions.
b. The technology is optimized for data-centre environments and needs to be further enhanced to suit the specific needs of carrier’s transport networks.
c. Integration of SDN and legacy equipment is still under development. A migration plan that retains the value of previous investments needs to be developed.
“In addition to that, today’s “selling point” for SDN and NFV is “Cost-Savings”, while the business case for that approach still needs to be proven. Instead, I trust that once carriers start realizing the operational benefits of this technology and the NEW REVENUE opportunities it may bring, they will be more keen to give it a try.”
Which areas of the network do you think should be prioritised for virtualization, and why?
SS: “To date – SDN and NFV have been realized in the Data-Centre. That’s one part of the network. There are other parts of the network that need to undergo the same: Wireline/Wireless/Mobile access networks, the packet core network, aggregation layers.
“The key is agnostic abstraction, which should be implemented on any of the above mentioned network areas. Agnostic abstraction which defines the service regardless of the vendor, the carrier and the underlying technology. Once that is achieved, virtualization becomes simple to implement. This emphasizes the key role of SDOs (Standard-Defining-Organizations) in the future of SDN and NFV. It is only through collaboration of vendors, service providers and OSS/BSS platform developers that the industry will be able to define consensus-based abstracted services and APIs that the vendors and OSS/BSS developers will then be able to implement in their hardware and software, allowing the carriers to virtualize their services in a ubiquitous manner across the different areas.”
What are your expectations for the development of SDN and virtualization in telco networks in coming years?
“To date – SDN and NFV development has focussed primarily on the Southbound-Interface. That’s a good starting point. There’s much debate going around the Northbound interface at this time. However – taking into account that in today’s environment services will almost always transit beyond the boundaries of one operator/system/carrier/platform into one (or more) other platform(s), it is key that an Eastbound-API is developed. Such Eastbound-API will allow a service to span across multiple domains delivering end-to-end management.
“As an example: A mobile user establishing HD Video conference with two other users: another mobile user that is subscribed to another mobile operator, and a colleague in the main office sitting at their desk. In the future SDN/NFV managed network, a VPN with CoS characteristics and bandwidth that is capable to convey an HD video signal will be established, in real time, from each user’s device, through their access network (mobile or wireline), through the core backbone of their network provider, to the MCU (Media Concentration Unit) in “the cloud” (a data-centre somewhere).
“For this example scenario to properly function – all elements of the network must use the same service abstractions and same APIs, regardless of their make, model or software release. A “guaranteed 768Kbps from device A to device B” is the same no matter if one device is a mobile phone on an LTE network and the other device is a macbookpro connected to the office WiFi. If all platforms along the path support the same standards, SDN and NFV will allow real-time delivery of billable CoS-managed-network services.”
Shahar will be speaking in more detail about his thoughts and ideas at Network Virtualization & SDN World in London on 27-30 May 2014. For further information and to register for the event, please visit www.sdnworldevent.com.