Light Reading

Dell Has Big NFV Plans

Carol Wilson
2/27/2014
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Dell lifted the veil last week on its planned involvement in network functions virtualization (NFV) but the computer maker has bigger announcements to come that are likely to signal a deeper engagement in the service provider community. (See MWC Offers Peek at NFV Projects.)

After assuming leadership of the CloudNFV group, Dell Inc. (Nasdaq: DELL) is looking at the broader implications of virtualization and the role it could play in helping the telecom sector in this significant transformation, says Wenjing Chu, distinguished engineer and CTO in Mobility & Net Virtualization. Chu has stepped into the lead position in CloudNFV once held by CIMI President Tom Nolle. (See CloudNFV Moves Quickly to Product Stage, Answering the NFV Management Challenge, and New Group Ties NFV to the Cloud.)

Given CloudNFV's work with both the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) NFV Industry Specifications Group, where it is one of 11 proofs of concept, and the TM Forum, where it is one of five NFV Catalyst Projects, Dell is already now at the center of a significant segment of the NFV effort that tied to network management and orchestration.

Chu says, however, that Dell Research is leading an effort to create a "pan-Dell" approach to virtualization that will look at the broad implications of this change for telecom and is where Dell can play in multiple aspects over a period of several years.

Chu told Light Reading:

    We are driving a pan-Dell solution that will involve different product groups. We already have cloud solution groups that are driving some of the largest and best private cloud systems together. And our networking group and telecom vertical OEMs are working very actively. There will be a big announcement coming out very soon about a corporate-wide strategy.

One thing to expect from both CloudNFV and Dell is an emphasis on maintaining an open system, as NFV is developed, even if some near-term answers are easier to achieve without that, Chu stresses.

"We don't want to get to where we are virtualized but we still have a vertically integrated system," he says. "You can quickly throw something together and say, 'Hey, where is NFV,' and you can create point products. But we want to make sure we have an open system in place when we are done."

Chu also sees NFV being attacked from many different angles, depending on the perspective of the company involved, as well as by multiple standards groups and industry forums. The ETSI NFV ISG has become a great place for all of those viewpoints to be considered.

As for CloudNFV, Chu agrees with his predecessor that the effort is moving very quickly and may be ready to productize its approach sooner rather than later. But he adds that it remains focused on solving the problems of its operator customers, working closely with them on their internal efforts, and making sure CloudNFV can not only solve the MANO issues but also help the operators sell the value of the solution internally.

— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading

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TomNolle
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TomNolle,
User Rank: Light Sabre
2/28/2014 | 8:28:28 AM
Re: Open standards
Standards processes are driven by those with the time and money to participate.  That has tended to push them all toward domination by vendors, but it's important to note that it's not membership that puts you in command of a standards effort but the WORK you have to do to contribute and shape the direction of things.  Most consensus processes end up going in a given direction because someone can simply exhaust everyone else.

The bigger question with something like NFV is whether the traditional standards approach will actually get to the right place, or even to any place, in time to be helpful. Remember that operators are looking to reverse the current trend of narrowing margin between price and cost of a bit.  The gap continues to narrow, and eventually they'll have to move to address that whether there are standards or not.  This is where prototoype implementations may have an advantage.
t.bogataj
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t.bogataj,
User Rank: Light Sabre
2/28/2014 | 4:08:55 AM
Re: Open standards
mhhf1ve,

Neither corporations nor countries participate in SDOs to make the world better or, erm, more "open". They're there to gain advantage over others who will have to follow.

T.
mhhf1ve
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mhhf1ve,
User Rank: Light Sabre
2/27/2014 | 5:51:10 PM
Re: Open standards
Open standards have been a sticking point in the past, as FakeMitchW points out. There are plenty of examples of standards bodies that have been taken over by large companies, and also examples of companies forking standards for their own purposes (to divide the market and try to claim parts of it).

The history of standards bodies makes me wonder if some project will emerge that will try to automate the creation of standards by some objective algorithms -- in order to remove the corporate motives that might lurk in the creation of open protocols.
Mitch Wagner
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Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
2/27/2014 | 4:00:54 PM
Open standards
Regarding maintaining an open system: This has proven to be a problem with other open standards. The standards themselves provide limited functionality, so vendors can "embrace and extend" the open technology to effectively make it proprietary.
smkinoshita
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smkinoshita,
User Rank: Light Sabre
2/27/2014 | 2:56:10 PM
Re: Interesting moves
@Carol Wilson:  I finding that interesting as well.  I think a ground-up approach is encouraging as it shows a lot more commitment than an adaption -- a lot more resource investment.
Carol Wilson
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Carol Wilson,
User Rank: Blogger
2/27/2014 | 1:42:08 PM
Re: Interesting moves
To me, what resonates about Dell's approach is that they aren't trying to adapt existing products or throw an NFV label on something they are already doing - it's more of a ground-up look at what's needed. 
DOShea
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DOShea,
User Rank: Blogger
2/27/2014 | 1:06:05 PM
Interesting moves
Both Dell and Brocade have been making some interesting moves lately that make it look like they understand virtualization and are serious about riding the SDN and NFV movements into new business opportunities in the service provider market. If carriers are willing to listen and and reward them for their leadership moves, it could be an interesting few years ahead for vendor market share changes.
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