SDN/NFV transformation: more than meets the eye

David Krozier/Ovum

Ovum

Change is coming to communication service provider networks, because there is no other alternative. A more flexible, intelligent network is fast becoming a strategic imperative for leading CSPs.

Until recently, network flexibility was largely limited to automating specific tasks in a network, and those tasks were never tightly coupled to overall business processes. But by using software-centric networking, CSPs will be able to offer services that are differentiated by the architecture and flexibility of their network and fully integrated with their OSS/BSS systems, rather than simply providing connectivity.

While software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV) technologies are at the core of this upcoming change to networks, the transformation will be a comprehensive one. It’s not just about technology - the real transformation will be all-encompassing, affecting every single aspect of the CSP business.

For leading CSPs, connectivity and capacity are no longer enough. Increasing demand for personalized cloud-based services will require CSPs to deploy more flexible, intelligent networks.

Changes in networking are more than just a technology issue. SDN and NFV are at the heart of this change, but the real transformation in networking involves all aspects of the CSP business model. These include business processes, sales, marketing, revenue recognition, operational methods and procedures, corporate culture, organizational structure, and even the career paths of staff members.

Ovum believes that successfully navigating these changes will be more difficult, yet more important, to the future of these organizations than any technology migration.

With software-centric networks, a spotlight shines on Intel. As the dominant vendor for processors used in servers, Intel will play an important role in the evolution of networks. The company has recognized this role and is already investing to support the development of software-centric networks.

The move to software-centric networks has changed the culture of the industry. Technologists working in networking are adopting architecture, technology, and development approaches established in the IT industry. Partnerships, ecosystems, and collaboration are the new currency in development of networking technology.

None of this will happen overnight. Deployment of software-centric networks will be a decades-long effort. Right now SDN and NFV can best be described as networking philosophies, where the specifics of implementation are up for interpretation. There is no standard approach to SDN or NFV products.

Subsequently, mature technology solutions are still years away from widespread market availability. Successful vendors will be those that can deliver products incorporating the benefits of software-centric technology today, while providing the flexibility to adapt to future technology changes.

CSPs, meanwhile, are advised to minimize their risk and retain an attractive path for network evolution.

David Krozier is principal analyst for telecoms network infrastructure at Ovum

This article first appeared in Telecom Asia SDN Insights Supplement October 2014 issue

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