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Process Automation Tops Carriers' Goals for NFV

Craig Matsumoto
5/18/2017
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AUSTIN, Texas -- Big Communications Event -- NFV is all about bringing virtualization into the carrier network, but what carriers want more is process automation.

Automation has long been mentioned as a goal of NFV and SDN, but a survey presented by Light Reading Founder Steve Saunders at BCE was a good reminder that it's the end goal.

The survey was an attempt to gauge providers' attitudes on DevOps, virtualization and open source in general. In his BCE keynote, Saunders railed against what he called the "utopian" vision of open source networks and software-driven culture.

"In order to fix what's gone wrong in our industry, we need to fix what's gone wrong with this vision," Saunders said.

Specifically, as he's written here before, Saunders believes the industry should stop relying on open source projects and instead return to standardization. He's forwarding those ideas through The New IP Agency . (See Together, We Can Build the Telecom 'App Store', Time for a Telecom Reboot and NFV Woes Could Be Fixed With Service Models, BT Suggests.)

The key point is that service providers prize process automation above other elements of transformation. Asked to name the three most important aspects of digital transformation, 143 of the 150 carriers and service providers surveyed named process automation.

BCE conference sessions reflected this attitude as well. A panel featuring described automation as the longer-term goal behind NFV. (See Beyond MANO: The Long Walk to Network Automation.)

Virtualization came in a close second with 130 votes.

DevOps landed last among the choices, with 34 carriers naming it, although that only proves that respondents didn't rank it among the top three priorities.

The survey also delved into attitudes about open source and the enterprise IT vendors. Both are to blame for the lack of NFV standards after years of effort, Saunders said -- open source for its tone of "innovation out of control" and enterprise players for claiming that cloud architectures would be an easy fit for telecom networks.

"We in the media got super excited about the story being spun by the open source crowd and enterprise players. I apologize for that," he said.

Not everybody shares those sentiments, though. In the survey, 44% of those polled called open source "essential" to telecom, with another 42% calling it helpful but not essential.

Only 2% called it irrelevant or outright bad for telecom -- with Saunders putting his opinion in the latter camp.

While 23% said enterprise vendors -- the likes of HPE and Oracle -- were absolutely capable of building telco-class clouds, 61% were less sure. They chose the option "maybe someday, but not right now." Only 9% voted for the "hahaha, no way" option.

Still, there seems to be agreement about what's lacking in NFV and SDN. Forty-four percent of the service providers cited lack of vendor interoperability as one of the biggest challenges faced. At the same time, 41% said there are too many competing specifications from vendors and open source organizations. (Multiple responses were allowed.) Saunders believes both problems arose from the reliance on open source, and both are issues the New IP Agency is trying to tackle.

— Craig Matsumoto, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

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