& cplSiteName &

Selecting a Prime Integrator for NFV

James Crawshaw
5/10/2017
50%
50%

In complex projects, such as a home extension, it makes sense to have a prime contractor that ensures the brickwork, plumbing, electrics and decorating are all coordinated. In IT circles the process of bringing together component sub-systems into one "uber" system is referred to as systems integration (SI). The lead systems integrator is the project manager or "one throat to choke."

By all accounts, NFV is even more complicated than a home extension and many telcos have opted for a lead systems integrator, not least so they have someone to blame if everything goes wrong. For example, in 2015, when Telefónica became frustrated with the vendor community's inability to provide open, multivendor propositions they brought in a lead SI to knit all the pieces together. Unfortunately that deal didn't seem to work out; it seems that choosing an SI can be as complicated as choosing all the component parts of NFV.

So, what are the key criteria to look for from an NFV SI? Clearly a knowledge of service provider IT (OSS), and enterprise IT (virtualization) are important. So too is a deep understanding of networking. In a hybrid, physical/virtual deployment (i.e. the real world) knowledge of legacy systems may be critical to NFV's success. The SI also needs to enable an open, multivendor environment that allows the CSP to swap out parts of the orchestration, VNF and infrastructure layers, avoiding vendor lock-in. If the SI is also a vendor of orchestrators, VNFs and/or infrastructure this clearly introduces a conflict of interest that must be managed.

The trouble with pure systems integrators is that while they may be very experienced in CRM implementations and business process re-engineering, they are perhaps not as steeped in networking know-how as the telco equipment providers. Once NFV is mature then pure SI firms will probably cope fine, but in the early days the trade-off between independence and network smarts may favor the communication infrastructure vendors. PowerPoint doesn't push packets.

In a survey conducted by TBR more than 50 managers and executives across the top 20 Tier 1 operators were asked to rank the importance of the services provided by their NFV vendors. Integration came top of the list, closely followed by deployment. Consulting was deemed to be of lesser importance. Surprisingly, technical support and managed services came bottom of the list. Perhaps it is the immaturity of NFV and its heavy reliance on software that make systems integration the top priority.

The TBR report quotes a Tier 1 operations director saying, "The values that we look for while acquiring such [integration] services would be that they consolidate our network systems and enhance their efficiency, transform the network seamlessly without disrupting current services, and organize the network functions in a way that would ease the introduction of new services."

Achieving such lofty objectives while minimizing the impact on the existing business is non-trivial. Like in the home extension analogy, complexity argues for a single lead integrator. The lead integrator develops a road map that meets the operator's goals and makes sure subcontractors meet the necessary requirements on time. The subcontractors may perform systems integration around their specific part of the solution (e.g. orchestrator, VNF or NFVi layer), but the prime SI is responsible for integrating the whole.

This blog is sponsored by Huawei.

— James Crawshaw, Senior Analyst, OSS/BSS Transformation, Heavy Reading

(3)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
dmarschke
50%
50%
dmarschke,
User Rank: Light Beer
5/14/2017 | 4:25:25 PM
Re: US
The big guys will always get all the press, but there is quite a bit of integration work that is done by smaller shops, like SDN Essentials, and companies out size may be in a better position than some of the biggers ones to be the prime integrator.  Here are some of the following reasons:

 

1.) Engineering talent and experience.  We are able to invest in a lot more open source and start-ups (as well as the estabished players)

2.) Business agility.  To open up a managed service or new service is quicker

3.) Ability to create partnerships..fast

4.) Cost/Price

 

Time will tell how this will all play out, but I expect there will be some major players as prime integrators in the next 2 years who are not the current big boys!  (hopefully us)
mendyk
50%
50%
mendyk,
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/11/2017 | 9:52:32 AM
Re: US
Feel free to make your case.
dmarschke
50%
50%
dmarschke,
User Rank: Light Beer
5/11/2017 | 1:11:03 AM
US
I would like to think a small player like us (SDN Essentials)  would fit the bill..
More Blogs from Heavy Lifting Analyst Notes
(Sponsored.) Even in non-line-of-sight conditions, fixed wireless access can provide reliable high-speed broadband, as tests have now shown.
Gluttony. Lust. And five others. What's not to like?
The most recent Thought Leadership Council survey finds that business/operations support system (B/OSS) transformation will be an important focus for service providers in the coming years.
Cellular vehicle-to-everything (C-V2X) systems are gaining traction in the market, and may surpass dedicated short range communications (DSRC) systems in traffic safety applications across the world.
While NFV provides an opportunity to reduce opex and improve customer experience, it also introduces additional layers of operational complexity.
Featured Video
From The Founder
Light Reading founder Steve Saunders grills Cisco's Roland Acra on how he's bringing automation to life inside the data center.
Flash Poll
Upcoming Live Events
February 26-28, 2018, Santa Clara Convention Center, CA
March 20-22, 2018, Denver Marriott Tech Center
April 4, 2018, The Westin Dallas Downtown, Dallas
May 14-17, 2018, Austin Convention Center
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
SmartNICs aren't just about achieving scale. They also have a major impact in reducing CAPEX and OPEX requirements.
Hot Topics
Here's Pai in Your Eye
Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading, 12/11/2017
Ericsson & Samsung to Supply Verizon With Fixed 5G Gear
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 12/11/2017
Verizon's New Fios TV Is No More
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 12/12/2017
The Anatomy of Automation: Q&A With Cisco's Roland Acra
Steve Saunders, Founder, Light Reading, 12/7/2017
You Can't Fix OTT Streaming Problems If You Can't See Them
Mike Hollyman, Head of Consulting Engineering, Nokia Deepfield, 12/8/2017
Animals with Phones
Don't Fall Asleep on the Job! Click Here
Live Digital Audio

Understanding the full experience of women in technology requires starting at the collegiate level (or sooner) and studying the technologies women are involved with, company cultures they're part of and personal experiences of individuals.

During this WiC radio show, we will talk with Nicole Engelbert, the director of Research & Analysis for Ovum Technology and a 23-year telecom industry veteran, about her experiences and perspectives on women in tech. Engelbert covers infrastructure, applications and industries for Ovum, but she is also involved in the research firm's higher education team and has helped colleges and universities globally leverage technology as a strategy for improving recruitment, retention and graduation performance.

She will share her unique insight into the collegiate level, where women pursuing engineering and STEM-related degrees is dwindling. Engelbert will also reveal new, original Ovum research on the topics of artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, security and augmented reality, as well as discuss what each of those technologies might mean for women in our field. As always, we'll also leave plenty of time to answer all your questions live on the air and chat board.

Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed