SDN and NFV bring culture change for telcos

David Krozier/Ovum
02 May 2014

While it’s still early in the evolution to software-centric networking, Ovum believes software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV) have already brought irreversible change to industry views on how future telco networks will be designed and operated and how services will be delivered and sold.

Applying technologies and lessons learned from building virtualized IT networks is driving operators to look at network architectures and product solutions with a fresh eye. Indeed, consideration of software-centric solutions has expanded the lexicon of networking with a host of new acronyms and terminology.

Ovum believes vendor organizations are better prepared for the cultural changes occurring as a result of the migration to software-centric networks, but we expect operators to follow suit. Successfully navigating these changes will be more difficult, and more important to the future of these organizations, than any technology migration.

SDN has already had a major impact on product development. What is now commonly called SDN originated at Stanford University with the introduction of the OpenFlow protocol in 2008. SDN brought a new way of thinking that has already changed how operators and their vendors approach the development of network architectures and products.

SDN – with its focus on innovation, open solutions, programmability, automation, and bending networks to the needs of applications – has brought with it a fresh outlook on how networks should work. The thought process is no longer “What products and protocols can we apply to the problem?” Instead, system engineers and network architects are working with software developers and asking “What is the best way to provide this service?”

Partnerships, ecosystems, and collaboration are the new currency for development of network equipment and services, because they offer the fastest path to introducing new capabilities into the market. While not yet endorsing full-fledged partnerships with over-the-top (OTT) providers, CSPs have at least offered a truce with recent announcements of support for toll-free data.

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