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Telcos Turn Spotlight on Virtualization

Ray Le Maistre

The recently formed Industry Specifications Group focused on Network Functions Virtualization (NFV), set up and managed by a group of the world's biggest and most influential telecom operators, is set to hold its first formal meeting in the south of France starting Jan. 15. The group, formed under the auspices of the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), was announced in October at the SDN & OpenFlow World Congress held in Germany. (See Carriers Collaborate on Network of the Future.) The group is aiming to figure out whether virtualization techniques can be used to build more efficient networks, a topic that includes the role of software-defined networking (SDN) technologies. The three-day meeting, being held in a hotel on the doorstep of the ETSI headquarters in Sophia Antipolis, France, is being attended by more than 120 people representing the likes of AT&T Inc., China Mobile Ltd., France Télécom – Orange, NTT Group, Telefónica SA, Verizon Communications Inc. and others.

Why this matters
There is a lot of discussion, and excitement, about how the virtualization of networking functions and the use of SDN protocols such as OpenFlow might make it easier and cheaper to manage telecom networks. (See Drop the Fruitcake: It's SDN Time and 2012 Belonged to SDN & NFV. But Will They Deliver in 2013?) Consequently, the major network operators need to figure out just what might really be possible and what the cost and efficiency implications might be. The implementation of virtualization techniques could herald a new wave of networking that might reinvigorate some operators and provide a platform for extended viability. Equally, it could create a networking nightmare that could hasten some operators' demise. The NFV group has a tough task -- needing to remain sober in the face of an intoxicating proposal for industry suppliers while, at the same time, not sitting on their hands for years just discussing the issues. The industry at large can help by holding back from making outlandish claims about the potential for NFV and SDN. That, though, might be a bit too much to ask. — Ray Le Maistre, International Managing Editor, Light Reading

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Ray Le Maistre
Ray Le Maistre,
User Rank: Light Sabre
1/11/2013 | 6:24:08 PM
re: Telcos Turn Spotlight on Virtualization
I wonder how much the carrier members of this group will share with each other about their ongoing lab tests? They need to figure out quickly whether NFV is something that can deliver lower-cost, easier-to-manage networks but have little in the way of proof-of-concept...-á
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