Unlocking The Full Potential Of SDN & NFV

January 16, 2017, Category: Plan

Currently, only 0-10% of CapEx is allocated to virtualisation, however, it is predicted that entire virtualisation will most likely take place between 2019-2026 so it is still early days yet. As things stand, most of the major telcos and MSOs are only just out of the blocks with their transformation towards SDN and NFV. The pace of these deployments is understandably slow, the race toward full virtualisation is more a marathon than a sprint, but CIOs and CTOs in charge of the transition have made significant strides, and the market has arguably now reached a point where turning back is no longer an option. However, many hurdles lie ahead…

Challenges in unlocking the full potential of SDN & NFV

One of the first hurdles that telcos will face is the difficulty surrounding building a coherent transformation roadmap that is market-backed, as well as focusing on using virtualisation to drive not only the bottom-line but also top-line benefits. NFV is more orientated to opening new offerings to market rather than solely efficiency savings. Telcos should anticipate this and discover new areas that NFV enables to continue to bring innovation to the marketplace.

The next hurdle is a big one. Many are using virtual equipment in the same ways as physical equipment. However, in order to fully capture the OpEx savings offered by the technology, there needs to be further investment in support systems. Further to this, there will need to be a transition from an organisation that has generally been grounded in a waterfall method, carrier grade engineering practices and the associated culture to a far more agile operating model that is much more software-focused, embracing concepts such as DevOps and multi-cloud operations at scale. 

As well as rethinking their organisational culture, carriers will also need to re-evaluate their relationships with technology suppliers for the ‘software-defined era’. Vodafone showcased their proof of concept under the title VPN+. This provides an on-demand delivery of SDN-enabled, NFV based VPN service using a wide range of partnerships with various technology partners in areas such as predictive analytics, orchestration and virtual functions amongst others. This demo showed how a VPN can be enhanced using SDN and NFV technology to increase performance and keep hardware requirements to a bare minimum. However, this would not have been possible without the partnerships from various suppliers. At present, VNF suppliers don’t have a clear idea of what operators want, a recent panel from the TMForum Live in Asia event highlighted the importance of reaching an agreed definition of requirements from operators, it is this co-operation that will drive success.

Imperatives for telcos making the leap to virtualised networks

Define a market-backed transformation sequence

Those carriers who approach the transformation purely from a network technology-led mindset will struggle to gain momentum and fail to realise the full benefits that the technology offers. Instead, the virtualisation transformation sequence should be driven by a combination of customer impacts (both positive and negative), new product and/or service strategy and the potential for new revenues and cost-efficiencies (both in technology and operations).

Design and build an agile operating model

In order to make the leap to using SDN and NFV, carriers will need to move from the traditional waterfall model to take a cloud-centric, agile or design-thinking approach, with support from organisational talent, training, processes and tools. Given the scale, complexity and duration of the transformational process, the redesign will not happen overnight but will be a long process in order to get it right.

Re-think supplier relationships

Many carriers are running into roadblocks and bottlenecks as they reach the limits of their existing supplier relationships in their efforts to virtualise their networks. One of the key challenges of the virtualisation transformation lies in the dependency on the same network technology that OEMs have long been prosperous from to build and maintain networks in the ‘hardware defined era’. On the one hand, these OEMs are required to take a lead role in the SDN/NFV transition by developing and releasing software-defined services as well as service migration tools and methodologies for carriers, supported by professional services. However, these same OEMs have a strong vested interest in preserving their installed technology base and associated revenue streams for maintaining and upgrading these networks.

To thrive in the software-defined era, carriers must consider adopting a new operational and delivery model, powered by new virtualisation technologies. The transformation towards virtualised networks will be a challenging one, but the business and cost efficiency opportunities presented cannot be ignored.

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Adapted from original content found at http://bit.ly/2jbk7wB

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