SDN/NFV lag behind cloud strategies

Glen Ragoonanan and Shanthi Ravindran/Analysys Mason
03 Sep 2014

Communications service providers (CSPs) have already established their place in the cloud computing value chain both as suppliers and users, and the benefits of virtualizing standard IT systems in cloud computing are well understood. CSPs have the ability to provide the high-quality connections essential for cloud and their local presence and market expertise give them unique strategic importance in the cloud computing market.

However, the boundaries between cloud computing, NFV and SDN will continue to blur as virtualization overcomes traditional hardware barriers. NFV provides a private cloud computing architecture for telecoms software systems to run at least 99.999%. NFV and SDN overlap in the core/aggregation layer of CSPs’ network, but the SDN roadmap needs to mature in the data center before it can reach CSPs’ networks. CSPs are exploring NFV and SDN to transform their networks to vNGNs during the next ten years, which will allow them to compete with other CSPs as well as data center and OTT service providers. However, CSPs will first need to prepare their networks, systems, operations and organization (people, process, culture) to ensure a successful vNGN transformation. They will need to build service cloud architectures to converge network, IT assets and organizational culture to incrementally transform to a vNGN, encouraging enterprise and network staff to share software skills and foster a DevOps culture.

Cost optimization is still a key selling point for cloud computing / NFV / SDN, but the long-term business case is service agility. CSPs need to overcome product immaturity and established infrastructure challenges, but increasing digital services competition will drive innovations for new revenue streams. CSP SDN WAN revenue-generating solutions such as cloud bursting, ‘zero-touch’ dynamic VPN and dynamic traffic management with QoS are examples.

Cloud brokering is emerging as CSPs try to provide a sufficiently broad range of cloud services to satisfy most customers’ cloud service requirements. CSPs are becoming the broker (the middle ‘B’) in cloud-enabled B2B2C and B2B2B models. Some CSPs are acquiring DCPs to compete in providing cloud services. NFV and SDN can enable CSPs to sell value-added network and security resources to DCPs, enterprises or other CSPs, with new on-demand tariffs that diverge from the flat wholesale rate. However, some barriers must be addressed to achieve more progress.

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