SDN, NFV to be weapons of choice for APAC telcos

Geoff Leong/TM Forum
05 Nov 2014

Asia is one of the most dynamic communications markets in the world, but it is also an increasingly fierce battleground for internet communications service providers and traditional communications network operators. So how can Asian carriers fight back?

Most analysts and vendors agree that the answer is through the adoption of software-based infrastructure in the form of software-defined networks (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV), which promise lower-cost infrastructure and allow infinitely more flexible use of network assets for delivering services.

Behind the curve – for now

Where is Asia on the SDN/NFV adoption curve? Scott Sneddon, Asia-Pacific Business Lead, Nuage Networks, says many established infrastructure operators in the region are investigating the technologies and putting out requests for information, but few have reached the deployment stage – so Asia is behind carriers in North America in this respect. However, this is expected to change in the next year, as there are a number of projects in the pipeline.

“What really needs to happen is a bit of a mind-change among the OSS systems and the application designers and the network architects of telcos. They need to be able to learn from what’s happening in cloud and virtualization, and apply that to their telco use cases. So the technologies to get there are SDN, which lets me create a more dynamic network model that’s easier to manage, and NFV, which is all about using commodity compute clusters to run telco applications,” he says.

Adapting networks to cash in

Kevin Bloch, chief technology officer, Australia and New Zealand, Cisco, reckons software-based infrastructure will also be essential to cope with the IP traffic generated by the Internet of Things (IoT). And the incentive? Bloch told a recent telco conference audience that data from IoT is the “new oil” and service providers stand to benefit if they can tap into its revenue streams. The challenge, he said, was to adapt their networks so they can deliver the new services and analytics that can open new revenue streams – which is where SDN and NFV come.

“We as an industry are working towards abstracting the infrastructure from the software. And we’re doing that for some very good reasons,” said Bloch. “We are actually doing it because we want to take advantage of the data going through these networks, both from an operational perspective as well as a revenue and a monetization perspective.”

He added that the network is central for any enterprise wanting to transform their business, and that the telecommunications industry as a whole is at the heart of those transformations.

Geoff Leong is an independent telecom researcher. This article originally appeared on the TM Forum blog.

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