What is holding back SDN & NFV in Enterprise?


A couple of weeks’ ago we spoke about the benefits which next generation networking solutions can offer the Public Sector (Why should the Public Sector be considering SDN & NFV?), but what about the broader concept of Enterprise – there is the potential for some major wins and highly lucrative contracts, but what is holding back wide-scale adoption?

In short, there are five reasons:

Conservatism, Inertia, Interoperability, Out-sourcing and Legacy Networks


For the most part, Enterprise is a conservative beast. Decision making is slow, tedious and careful. The procurement process is rigid and cautious, leaving little room for innovation. Although there is a feeling that the Telecommunications industry needs to evolve through to a more agile business model to fully realize the benefits of SDN and NFV (something the OTT’s are very adept at doing currently), there are small comforts in knowing that we are light years’ ahead of Enterprise!


The “Fail-fast” business model is one which we’ve spoken about quite considerably within the industry, though within Enterprise there is still a huge amount of work and evolution to go. Possibly one of the main reasons for Enterprise holding back from SDN & NFV is that there is a sense of Validation in the procurement process. Trial and error rarely exists, as the decision makers look for more proven solutions – which SDN & NFV are not (currently!)


This ties back into the first point – Enterprise are terrified of the idea of vendor lock-in situations (and quite rightly so), however the conservative nature of the decision makers inhibits any temporary vendor lock-in situations to reap short-term benefits of the technology. The Telecommunications industry certainly wants to avoid vendor lock-in situations (we can see this through the numerous Opensource projects throughout the industry) though have been compromises in the initial stages to ensure that we’re at least starting down the road to virtualization and automation


During the late 90’s and early 00’s there was seemingly a trend to outsource a number of different aspect of the business including networking. The fad seemed to be sensible idea on the surface – outsource activities like network management to ensure that individuals are on the key components of the business. Whilst this may seem like a sensible solution, the challenge comes now when you aim to grow and evolve, but without owning a private network this becomes a lot more difficult. Companies like Atos and Capita grew exponentially, however it has created a void in Enterprise which is becoming increasingly difficult to address

Legacy Networks

This is probably the biggest challenge that Enterprise are facing, and in fact becomes a much more significant as it is a culmination of all the above factors. Even one or two of the above will add to the challenge of legacy networks. The legacy networks themselves are not a problem however the cost of virtualizing is a major inhibitor for Enterprise. Combine this with the fact that the decision makers constantly seek validation of technology prior to signing the cheques it becomes a much more significant challenge

All in all, there are plenty of interesting solutions and use cases for Enterprise, however there are still too many questions marks. Enterprise is a slow moving machine, and whilst there are positive moves being made, it’s still early days

What to know more?

Check out IIR’s Network Virtualization Forum, Europe (Madrid, 15-17 September): http://networkvirtualizationeurope.com/

Key speakers include:

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