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End-to-End Solutions, Process Development Will Help Propel NFV Further Forward

October 01, 2014

Next month marks two years since some of the world’s largest communications service providers announced they had created a group within ETSI to explore network functions virtualization. Today, several of the tier 1 service providers are in the midst of NFV proof of concept efforts, says Sanjay Bhatia, senior director of solutions marketing at GENBAND.

AT&T, BT Group, Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telecom Italia, Telefonica and Verizon was the core group that kicked off the exploration of NFV with the goals of reducing equipment costs and power consumption, improving time to market of new services, enabling the availability of multiple applications on a single network appliance with the multi-version and multi-tenancy capabilities, and encouraging a more dynamic ecosystem through the development and use of software-only solutions. This already significant movement has since expanded both for these players and for the industry as a whole.

For example, in September 2013, AT&T launched what it calls the next generation of its Supplier Domain Program – Domain 2.0. Calling Domain 2.0 a transformative initiative, AT&T said it will trigger, “a swift and broad move to a modern, cloud-based architecture that is expected to significantly reduce the time required to pivot to this target architecture while accelerating time-to-market with technologically advanced products and services.”

Leveraging NFV and SDN, AT&T explained, it plans to simplify and scale its network by separating hardware and software functionality; separating network control plane and forwarding planes; and improving management of functionality in the software layer.

“Our goal is to ensure that each investment accelerates our move towards an advanced all-IP broadband, all-wireless, and all-cloud infrastructure, delivers on the full promise of game-changing technologies, provides an industry leading customer experience, and maintains focus on a capital-efficient network,” Tim Harden, president of AT&T Supply Chain, said at the time.

AT&T has since privately announced the first vendors for Domain 2.0, and the carrier and those companies are working to evolve NFV proof of concept efforts. Meanwhile, BT, Verizon, and other service providers are working on similar efforts, and trying to figure out how the NFV environment will impact their existing back office systems and related processes, said Bhatia.

“There are a lot of things to be figured out, such as integration to existing networks,” he said. “Is it again another case of overlay, or is it a smooth transition?”

But while many of these questions remain, that’s not to say NFV is more challenging than today’s network architecture, Bhatia explained; it’s just a different model. And when you implement a new business model, he noted, you need to create new processes to enable it. 

Say Mother’s Day is around the corner, he said, a carrier may want to scale its network resources on demand for that day, which is a big day for network usage. With new NFV- and SDN-enabled networks, carriers will have the agility to do that. But the specific processes involved in expanding capacity for a limited period of time and then returning the network to handle regular loads in the days that follow, are the kinds of things carriers and their partners are still working out, says Bhatia.

That will require end-to-end solutions, he adds. While there has been lots of work on point solutions for NFV to date, the focus needs to shift more to end-to-end solutions and processes, says Bhatia, adding that GENBAND is part of several ecosystems to enable that.

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