Light Reading

Data Center Virtualization: Tough for Carriers, Tougher for Vendors

Mitch Wagner

Welcome to telco data center month here at Light Reading. Throughout August, we'll be taking a close look at the technology, people, and business issues driving change at carrier data centers.

To kick things off, we talked to two of the sector's key experts on carrier data centers: Jim Hodges and Roz Roseboro are both senior analysts at Heavy Reading , specializing in data center issues.

So what are the major technology and business issues driving telco data center transformation?

Jim and Roz laugh. "SDN and NFV," they say, nearly at the same time.

"I guess we're done then," I say. "Thanks for your time. Bye now!"

OK, so I didn't say that... it's not that clear cut.

Carriers are deep into the process of virtualizing their server and storage infrastructure, and are now beginning to virtualize the network, Roseboro explains.

That's true in many industries, but it's a particular challenge for carriers, which face high availability, security, and regulatory requirements that do not constrain companies in other sectors, Hodges says.

Carriers need to move methodically, because virtualizing requires deep cultural change, Roseboro adds.

Both carriers and vendors need to move from managing hardware to software. "Operators are currently managing lots of boxes and they're moving on to manage software, requiring different tools and processes," Roseboro says.

SDN and NFV are two faces of virtualization. Of the two, NFV is moving faster, in part because NFV is being driven by network operators, with a key group of major telcos -- AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA), Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT), KDDI Corp. , NTT Communications Corp. (NYSE: NTT), Orange (NYSE: FTE), Telefónica SA (NYSE: TEF), and Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), among others -- having published a white paper in 2012 laying out their demands. "Operators have been clear about their desire to move away from proprietary hardware solutions," Roseboro says. (See Defining SDN & NFV.)

Carrier-driven disruption is rare, says Hodges. In the past, disruptive technology came from outside; it's something the carriers could not control. "It's a major switch to the telco business model, but it's being driven by the telcos in many respects," Hodges says. "In some respects, NFV is more disruptive to the vendor communities."

Roseboro says she's been hearing from carriers that it's harder to make a business case for SDN than for NFV, because SDN's primary benefit -- at least for now -- is reducing opex. "Carriers will invest to increase revenue. It's hard to get people to invest to save money," she says.

So which carriers are leading the move to virtualization? It's hard to say.

All the Tier 1 carriers have ongoing programs, "because they realize this is their architecture of the future," and it's very much a global process, Hodges says: The operators that signed the NFV white paper in many respects have set the pace, he notes.

Operators are putting virtual firewalls and other appliances at the edge of the network to take their first steps toward NFV, but core functions have yet to be specced out, Roseboro says, adding that it's too early in the virtualization transition to identify and name leaders.

Find out more about how NFV is shaping the data center -- join us for our NFV & the Data Center event Sept. 16 in Santa Clara.

Look out during the rest of the month for more coverage of telco data center issues and developments, including features on the top people and vendors leading the transition.

And for further reading, check out these NFV and SDN articles on Light Reading:

— Mitch Wagner, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profileFollow me on Facebook, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading. Got a tip about SDN or NFV? Send it to

(0)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
More Blogs from Wagner’s Ring
Intel is looking to comms networking to drive future growth, as its PC business flattens.
Formally uncloaking in the coming weeks.
The industry group was an early attempt to unlock the full potential of NFV. Depending on who you talk to, it either fizzled out or achieved victory and went home.
ONOS will partner with the Linux Foundation, which is also home to OpenDaylight.
Cisco video conferencing plays a supporting role in the movie The Martian.
From The Founder
Steve Saunders provides an overview of white box networking and introduces a new "slim line" version of the OSI 7-layer model.
Flash Poll
Live Streaming Video
CLOUD / MANAGED SERVICES: Prepping Ethernet for the Cloud
Moderator: Ray LeMaistre Panelists: Jeremy Bye, Leonard Sheahan
Wagner’s Ring
The Business Case for Open Source

11|30|15   |     |   (1) comment

Open source helps companies enhance infrastructure, undermine competitors' advantage and teach collaboration. But there are problems.
Between the CEOs
Centec on Ethernet Switching

11|26|15   |   09:58   |   (0) comments

Centec CEO James Sun talks to Steve Saunders about Ethernet switching and the white box revolution.
LRTV Custom TV
Delivering Service Agility in the Virtualization Era

11|25|15   |   5.41   |   (0) comments

Interview with Massimo Fatato, WW OSS Business Lead, Hewlett Packard Enterprise.
Wagner’s Ring
How Might Open Source Fail?

11|24|15   |     |   (10) comments

Open source, SDN, and NFV are looking inevitable – but performance, standards proliferation and regulatory capture could derail the movement.
LRTV Custom TV
NFV Lifecycle Orchestration – a Fresh Vision for Telco

11|23|15   |   6.40   |   (0) comments

Simon Osborne, CTO Comptel, and Heavy Reading's Caroline Chappell reveal the business impacts of new SDN and NFV, and what the term service orchestration actually means. Together they define Lifecycle Service Orchestration and how the virtualized future will look for telecoms operators.
Between the CEOs
Cisco's Virtual Role in Saudi

11|20|15   |   12:15   |   (2) comments

Light Reading founder and CEO Steve Saunders talks with Zayan Sadek, Regional Manager at Cisco Systems, about the competitive communications services market and advance of virtualization in Saudi Arabia.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei Leads With Kubernetes for Cloud PaaS

11|19|15   |   08:26   |   (0) comments

Huawei is looking to Kubernetes as a key tool for building robust open source technologies for customers and partners, said Ying Xiong, chief architect of cloud platform at Huawei, in an interview with Light Reading West Coast Bureau Chief Mitch Wagner at the recent Kubecon conference.
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
WiC in London: The Highlight Reel

11|19|15   |   5:33   |   (1) comment

NetCracker's Mervat El Dabae headlines an inspiring morning in London with help from leading women from Vodafone, TalkTalk, Hyperoptics and Ciena.
LRTV Documentaries
Why Saudi's So Hot for New Tech

11|19|15   |   05:07   |   (0) comments

Light Reading's Steve Saunders reports from Saudi Arabia, a hyper-competitive market desperate to embrace the next generation of communications technologies and services.
LRTV Custom TV
Why Data Models Deliver More Value Than Information Models

11|19|15   |   5.08   |   (0) comments

Stefan Vallin argues that more automation is needed to manage end-to-end services and the hybrid networks they run on, and that data models are key to achieving this.
Telecom Innovators Video Showcase
SDN Management & Orchestration in the WAN

11|17|15   |   7.20   |   (0) comments

Carol Wilson and Packet Design CTO Cengiz Alaettinoglu discuss CSPs' SDN service delivery and assurance requirements. Learn about a modular approach to building automated control, orchestration and management functions for the WAN that are policy- and analytics-driven.
LRTV Custom TV
Flash Networks: Optimizing for Radio Spectral Efficiency

11|17|15   |   3:34   |   (0) comments

Today most optimization vendors only focus on optimizing voice or data. Ofer Gottfried, Flash Networks' CTO, shows how improving data throughput and maximizing spectral efficiency reduces capital and operating expenses while also providing a platform for user engagement.
Allot MobileTrends Report H2/2015 reveals how daily online behavior can be used to discover smarter ways to profile customers and propose valuable, real-time offers to them.
Hot Topics
Samsung: No Sale of Wireless Unit
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 11/25/2015
Hong Kong Moments
Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-chief, 11/26/2015
How Might Open Source Fail?
Mitch Wagner, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading, 11/24/2015
Facebook in Africa: Beauty or Beast?
Iain Morris, News Editor, 11/27/2015
Cable Gives Thanks for Business Services
Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, 11/27/2015
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
December 15, 2015
Virtualizing Cable Services
Webinar Archive
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
Centec CEO James Sun talks to Steve Saunders about Ethernet switching and the white box revolution.
Light Reading founder and CEO Steve Saunders talks with Zayan Sadek, Regional Manager at Cisco Systems, about the competitive communications services market and advance of virtualization in Saudi Arabia.
Cats with Phones
Can't Find the Phone on Thanksgiving? Click Here
Check under the cat! (hint: bottom right)
Live Digital Audio

Broadband speeds are ramping up across Europe as the continent, at its own pace, follows North America towards a gigabit society. But there are many steps to take on the road to gigabit broadband availability and a number of technology options that can meet the various requirements of Europe’s high-speed fixed broadband network operators. During this radio show we will look at some of the catalysts for broadband network investments and examine the menu of technology options on offer, including vectoring and for copper plant evolution and the various deployment possibilities for FTTH/B.