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Analyst: SDN/NFV Succeeds or Fails on Management

Dan O'Shea

Management and service assurance capabilities are key to the success of the software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV) movements, but not enough attention has been paid to these aspects, according to Heavy Reading analyst Ari Banerjee, who underscored that point this afternoon on a Service Provider IT Report radio show, "Service Fulfillment for the SDN/NFV Era."

What network operators most need to know is how to manage and assure quality of customer experience over evolving SDN/NFV environments, Banerjee said, because customers won't care whether operators are using traditional infrastructure or new "bare metal" components, just so long as it all works.

"If the customer experience is hampered, then all of this falls apart," he said. "Management technology is the building block which will either make these kinds of initiatives succeed or fail."

Are the TM Forum and the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) NFV Industry Specifications Group listening?

Both TMF and the ETSI group have made great strides in pursuing standardization and common practices around SDN/NFV. The TMF in fact just announced that several of its current Catalyst projects are NFV-related, and at least a couple of those have been accepted as proof of concept projects by ETSI's NFV ISG, which has included a Management and Network Orchestration layer in its architecture. But, Banerjee feels service assurance and QoE need more focused attention. (See NFV Takes Center Stage for TM Forum.)

"Today's specs talk a bit about SLAs and QoE vaguely," Banerjee added in a live text chat that followed the radio show. "More concrete measurement parameters are needed."

Though the TMF and ETSI NFV ISG have ongoing conversations on SDN/NFV, the assessment of Banarjee and at least a couple audience members was that more could be done to make sure management is adequately addressed in the short term. Could a hybrid group designed to address management and service assurance details be part of the answer? CloudNFV , a consortium of vendors, emerged last year to address MANO (Management and Orchestration) issues in particular, but maybe conversations between the TMF and ETSI need to move to a more formalized level. (See Answering the NFV Management Challenge.)

— Dan O'Shea, Managing Editor, Light Reading

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User Rank: Light Beer
2/11/2014 | 3:38:06 PM
History is our guide
Great article and comments. Sorry to be late the party -- this slipped off the radar.

Completely agree that management is a key enabler. History tells us that any new technology paradigm will not gain widespread adoption until the ecosystem is reasonably whole, and that includes management know-how, processes and tools.  SDN adoption will be far more evolutionary than revolutionary and it is incumbent on infrastructure providers and ISVs to both adapt existing management technologies and introduce new ones, where required, to provide the same level of visibility (and control) that network operators have today. It is naive to believe that programmability and automation will somehow displace humans. We will see more participation by the management software providers in the relevant standards bodies now that the viability of SDN/NFV is clear.

Full disclosure: I represent a management ISV. You can read more here: https://tinyurl.com/ke9y8ea    
User Rank: Light Sabre
1/30/2014 | 9:21:54 PM
Re: There Are Formal Connections
I think that's very true about the timing of management issues.  I think we're forgetting a key point about the age of everything-virtual, which is that converting abstrations into instantiations is inherently a management process itself, and keeping track of what resources you've committed to do something is critical to managing that something in the long term.  We seem to be in an age of compartmentalization too; vendors look at product silos and the next quarter only, and standards groups have their niches, but sometimes struggle when a new concept of ecosystems smears all the boundaries around!
User Rank: Blogger
1/30/2014 | 9:17:05 PM
Re: There Are Formal Connections
Thanks for the info on the liason. A few folks in the chat room after the radio show were wondering about that, and no one seemed to know for sure. Management leading the way seems like a great idea, but somehow more people need to be asking the question "How are we going to manage all this?" much earlier in the innovation conversation.
User Rank: Light Sabre
1/30/2014 | 8:33:11 AM
There Are Formal Connections
The TMF filed the documents for liaison with the ETSI ISG so there are formal links between the bodies.  The point here is that management of virtual functions is a subset of managing services, which means that while the ETSI ISG can solve the incremental problems of virtual functions, broader management issues are out of scope.  The TMF is at least one of the appropriate bodies to address the broad management shifts.  I agree completely that management is the core of the future of any next-gen networking strategy.  In fact, we have to start thinking of management/operations as leading us into the new age of services rather than being dragged along.  We've started too many initiatives down at the bottom and hoped we could build up to something sensible.  Hope's a bad way to transform an industry, IMHO.
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