One of the more pressing concerns with the on-going development of Software-Defined Networking (SDN) technology are challenges in addressing the “Openness” during deployment and implementation. Whilst there are a number of initiatives currently underway (with varying levels of success), there is still substantial work to be done in the field.
It is certainly an interesting scenario, as success in this field would certainly shift the dynamic of the industry, placing a huge advantage to the Operators within the buyer-seller dynamic. Avoiding a Vendor-Lock-In situation is a paramount objective for the Operators, and could potentially see profits for the Vendors take a substantial hit.
Despite the fact that the open source initiatives will directly influence vendor profit-margins, there has been a strong amount of collaboration in the industry to date. That is until recently.
“In the SDN field, open source initiatives are key to drive and encourage the adoption of the technology. While it’s normal that industry players are mainly focused on their own agendas, it would be not be definitely a good sign if major collaborative efforts lose momentum” highlighted Jorge Carapinha, Senior Engineer at Portugal Telecom Inovação e Sistemas.
“Unfortunately, dispersion and fragmentation of efforts may lead to closed proprietary solutions, which go against the spirit of SDN/NFV”
It’s not currently clear what the long-term aspirations of the vendors are with such open source initiatives, but a fragmentation of efforts would certainly be a worrying scenario.
In any case, there are certainly some positive moves being made.
“From a network operator’s perspective, SDN and NFV represent a catalyst for open innovation. This will contribute to make the operators play a more active role in the innovation process and, perhaps more importantly, enable differentiation” Jorge added “Traditionally, the capability of operators to differentiate is limited and often dependent on vendors”
“However, this will come at the cost of building new skills and competences, which will certainly require a significant effort, so this is not likely to be a painless transition”
The immediate benefits of both SDN and NFV was certainly focused on the reduction in CAPEX and OPEX, the industry has voiced numerous projects to utilize all the features and benefits of the technology “Although cost reduction was initially heralded as the main incentive for NFV adoption, it looks like innovation and differentiation are becoming the real drivers for adoption”
The optimism within the operators is clear, though there are still a number of different questions which need to be answered concerning deployment and integration “For NFV and SDN, it is not yet clear what are the limits imposed by performance, reliability and scalability”
“Large scale SDN/NFV deployment is not likely to take place until operators become aware of all associated issues and hurdles. How critical this is depends of course on the type of functions, which may be a reason to think that virtualized customer edge functions will be deployed earlier than, for example, virtual EPC” Jorge remarked.
But what about R&D developments in this field?
“My current focus is the T-NOVA project (http://www.t-nova.eu/). T-NOVA promotes the establishment of a NFV marketplace, which is supposed to lower entry barriers to the telecom market for developers and SMEs”
“Through the T-NOVA marketplace, independent developers should be able to offer innovative virtual network appliances and monetize their offerings”
I guess that NFV adoption will start by the virtualization of edge systems (e.g. vCPE, vHGW) and middleboxes (e.g. firewall, DPI, load balancer), so my prediction is that we will see an increasing number of pilots and possibly commercial offerings, especially targeted at the small/medium business market, already in 2015”
2015 Prediction: Jorge Carapinha, Senior Engineer at Portugal Telecom Inovação e Sistemas