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SDN & NFV: Evolution, Not Revolution

Robin Mersh

There’s been an explosion of chat, articles, and videos about SDN and NFV recently, and while some are dubbing these new buzzword technologies as the "Holy Grail" that operators have been waiting for, others have their doubts. (See Defining SDN & NFV.)

The potential to ease pressure on fixed costs whilst also dynamically developing new revenue streams shows the attractiveness of NFV (potentially using SDN), but business conditions remain challenging on all fronts, and this includes both regulatory issues and standards development.

SDN and NFV are technologies with promise, but how do we realize that promise? Operators like the look of them, while vendors try to work their magic around what they could actually deliver. And all the time, all players are looking to protect their current revenues.

At the recent Broadband Forum meeting in Malta, we saw that things are already happening. Axel Clauberg, VP of Transport, Aggregation, and IP & Fixed Access in the CTO team at Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT), gave a keynote, where he pointed out that NFV and SDN, coupled with simplification of IP, was already creating what he termed the "software-defined operator." (See Deutsche Telekom: A Software-Defined Operator.)

This is an entirely new business model for service providers, and Clauberg showed how the German operator had gone from negotiation to launching a network for subsidiary T-Hrvatski Telekom in Croatia in just three months!

We're talking about a full 100G network here, using interoperable IP and optical integration with network and cloud technologies coming together for service production. This was certainly a dramatic example of innovation at work: Without doubt, SDN and NFV are disruptive to the current multiservice broadband network. But with disruption usually comes this kind of innovation and new opportunities.

However it develops, it's going to be interesting, and the Broadband Forum is intent on developing a central role in the NFV and SDN evolution, as it's an important part of another major challenge the industry still faces -- that of technology migration.

However effective a disruptive technology is, change will be evolutionary.

– Robin Mersh, CEO, Broadband Forum

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User Rank: Light Sabre
3/23/2014 | 4:12:30 PM
Re: NFV, SDN & cloud
Kruz is right, and that's one of the reasons while these technologies will experience a slow growth prior to critical mass.

Service providers are simply not going to dive into this new area without a lot of careful testing and planning. That being said, I think it will happen a lot faster than many of us expect it to. 
Mitch Wagner
Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
3/21/2014 | 5:42:47 PM
Re: NFV, SDN & cloud
Kruz, I'm doing research into adoption obstacles for SDN, and that's emerging as a clear favorite. SDN advocates aren't doing a great job of articulating business benefits. 
User Rank: Light Sabre
3/21/2014 | 1:17:59 PM
Those vendors that adopt the view that "SDN and NFV are disruptive to the current multiservice broadband network" are bound to fail, period. RIP.

But those who are able to show a painless/seamless transition from traditional models of sevice delivery to SDN-based, are the likely winners in this arena.

This transition is not spoken about at all, and most vendors just pretend to believe that the operators will jump the SDN wagon and embrace SDN just because it's so great. Sadly, even associations (ONF explicitly named here) produce no useful guidelines in this regard.

Not a surprise, those ONF members that have their transition propositions keep them to themselves... as their own possible advantage.

User Rank: Light Sabre
3/21/2014 | 9:07:31 AM
NFV, SDN & cloud
The problem with NFV and SDN is that it provides no clear business and revenue opportunities and most importantly, it is still hard for telco to understand, especially when compared to cloud offering.
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