I attended the Carrier Network Virtualization show in San Jose last week, and it had a lot in common with the SDN & Openflow World Congress event in Dusseldorf in that carriers were all talking about how (not IF) they would be using NFV and virtualization technology. This conference was attended heavily by US operators (as opposed to the European customers from the European event) with the attendees across all verticals - fixed, mobile, cloud, wifi, and cable. In a similar fashion to the Dusseldorf event, SDN was a partner technology that was covered in the event, but clearly secondary to NFV in deployment readiness (and in many cases, it felt as if SDN vendors were “jealous” of NFV).
What was the theme of the event? I think for both vendors and operators, it was “NFV now”.
Operators are ready to take advantage of all the benefits touted by NFV, and the vendor solutions are maturing enough to meet the carrier’s requirements. However, let’s be specific – there is virtualization and there is “full” NFV solutions, and the one thing that is still immature for NFV is what is commonly referred to as MANO – Management and Operations (and usually referred to as orchestration). Many products are ready for virtualization today (which is a big first step to NFV) but maybe not fully orchestration-ready. What is the difference? Virtualization is usually thought of as a pure-software version of whatever you do today – firewall, DPI, EPC, etc.., that free the operator from specific hardware requirements.
irtualization enables new use cases for many products, a good example being full edge deployments where it may be too expensive to deploy specific hardware for each function (Virtual CPE being an example of this), and is is a good start for many operators. Intel has championed the Open NFV (OPNFV) program to help define hardware base platforms for operators to deploy NFV solutions on. But “Full” NFV includes the ability to orchestrate solutions in real-time – if I need more capacity, need to add a new function, or even recover from a hardware or network issue. The orchestration solutions are developing quickly, but are not quite ready for large-scale implementations…yet. Operators have spent 2014 doing Proof-of-Concept testing with NFV solutions – both virtual and orchestrated – and will spend 2015 deploying these solutions to solve specific problems or launch new services in their networks.
It is a very exciting time for NFV, and Procera will use NFV to help our customers transform their networks in 2015. We continue to believe that NFV is a transformative technology for operators, both technically as well as from a business point of view, and the feedback that we get from operators is that they view NFV the same way. Stay tuned for more from us on this topic in early 2015!