At the recent NFV World Congress, communications service providers and suppliers highlighted the significant progress they are making in implementing virtualized software -- both NFV and SDN -- to modernize their network operations and speed the delivery of new revenue-producing applications. The event, held in San Jose, Calif., also provided a forum to discuss NFV standards, the role of OpenStack in NFV, and NFV orchestration challenges.
Verizon challenges suppliers
Perhaps the most dynamic presentation at the event was given by Shawn Hakl, VP of product and new business innovation at Verizon, who called for suppliers to eliminate vendor lock-in, telling them “it will just lock you out of our network.” He asked them deliver software on white-box solutions, arguing that hardware-specific solutions create friction, increase costs, and delay Verizon’s ability to deliver new services. Hakl also highlighted the need for additional work on management, automation, and orchestration (MANO) standards and said that integration/testing requirements were a key challenge for multi-vendor NFV implementation.
Hakl indicated that Verizon made significant progress last year in several areas around NFV/SDN including virtual security, SD-WAN, content delivery, and VoIP. He said Verizon sees SDN as an integral part of NFV and indicated that the benefits of NFV/SDN deployments “are exceeding expectations.”
NTT's virtualization strategy
Hiroshi Nakamura, SVP of research with NTT DoCoMo, discussed NTT’s plans to virtualize 75% of its network by 2020. NTT has already deployed a multi-vendor vEPC – a mobile-core system that supports LTE access systems -- in its network in partnership with Cisco, NEC, Fujitsu, and Ericsson. The vEPC efforts were driven by capacity and reliability challenges on the mobile network after the devastating 2011 earthquake in Japan.
The original NFV standards efforts were initiated from ETSI. ETSI remains a leading force behind NFV architectures, but has been joined by a number of other standards organizations, including the Linux Foundation, the Open Networking Foundation, and the Open Platform for NFV (OPNFV). These standards organizations as well as major carriers have recently been promoting the value of open source software to accelerate NFV deployments.
IT and semiconductor suppliers have been instrumental in promoting NFV, developing standards, and working towards practical implementations. At the event, Intel, HPE, NXP, ARM, and many others provided their perspectives on NFV standards developments. Meanwhile, networking vendors such as Cisco, Ericsson, Huawei, and Nokia promoted their NFV architectures.
CableLabs announced that its Kyrio subsidiary, is launching an interoperability lab to test NFV and SDN software. Located in Colorado and Sunnyvale, CA, the lab is open to NFV hardware and software suppliers.
Recent announcements by major communications service providers have shown significant support for OpenStack in NFV deployments. According to the OpenStack Foundation, CSPs are the fastest growth sector for OpenStack deployments. At the NFV World Congress, Verizon detailed its experiences with OpenStack for its distributed data centers. AT&T, XO Communications, Telefonica, and CableLabs also discussed their support for OpenStack.
NFV orchestration challenges
The event featured many discussions on the challenges of implementing MANO in the context of NFV/SDN deployment. Service providers must rapidly enable new NFV deployments while tying the virtual network to their existing back office systems (OSS/BSS). At the event, Telefonica discussed its open source MANO initiative; its goal is to bring innovation, low cost, and eliminate vendor lock-in for the all-important NFV MANO layer.
vCPE and SD-WAN
One of the leading use cases for NFV is virtual customer premise equipment (vCPE) to enable rapid delivery of new services to business (and consumer) customers. SD-WAN can complement vCPE by managing and security hybrid WAN services (e.g., MPLS and Internet) for business customers. A number of CSPs including NTT and Verizon and suppliers such as Wind River, Versa, and Viptela discussed their vCPE implementations to enhance business services.
Support for CORD
CORD stands for Central Office Redesigned as a Data Center. Its goal is to provide reference design architectures for SDN and NFV implementation in the telecom network. Several serviced providers detailed their support for CORD at the NFV World Congress including AT&T, Verizon, SK Telecom, and China Unicom.
Overall, NFV deployments are maturing, with many of the largest service providers moving from lab and pilot projects to small production deployments. There still is a lot of uncertainty due to multiple standards organizations, incomplete work on MANO, and widely varying -- and incompatible -- vendor solutions. CSPs must bridge the skills gap required to handle the complexities of migrating to virtual networks while continuing to operate with existing physical networks and OSS/BSS platforms.