& cplSiteName &

How NFV Gets a Foot in the Door for SDN

Mitch Wagner
7/18/2014
100%
0%

A recent blog post by veteran industry analyst Tom Nolle points up where SDN is a tough sell to carriers: It's too ambitious, and the benefit is difficult to quantify.

Tom, who's a friend of Light Reading, starts with a reminder of my past as an English literature major. No, he doesn't ask if you want fries with that... he quotes the poet John Milton.

Then Tom gets into the meat of the thing:

When SDN got started, it quickly became identified with a kind of network-buyer "throw the bums out" vision where hordes of white-box revolutionaries were carried on the shoulders of the crowd as they trampled incumbents. In reality, there is no indication that SDN is really revolutionizing much at this point, and if you believe the latest Wall Street analysis of buyer sentiment, we're going to see an uptick in traditional network spending. Why is all of this happening?

Read Tom's whole post here: SDN is a Spectator Sport. (Also, see 3 Barriers to SDN Adoption.)

Tom then describes why SDN is having a tough time: "The barrier to SDN revolution is incrementalism. You can't readily value SDN by replacing one router at a time. You have to displace a bunch of stuff to create a value in networking, and to do that you need significant benefits -- new things."

Of course the big benefit of SDN, proponents say, is agility. You can configure networks faster, increase customer self-service and satisfaction, and innovate new kinds of service. But that kind of thing is difficult to describe in detail and quantify. And it's hard to explain exactly how SDN fits in, Tom says.

And as for innovation: The nature of innovation is you can't describe it in advance. The only way you know if something is innovative is in retrospect. Indeed, innovation often looks stupid when first proposed (and even stupidity is no reliable dowsing rod for finding innovation, because you know what else looks stupid when proposed? Stupid things.)

Reading Tom's post, it strikes me that NFV dodges the tough selling proposition of SDN precisely because it's less ambitious. NFV is about using software for network functions that currently require dedicated hardware appliances, such as firewalls and load balancers and such. That's easy to understand. And the benefits are easy to understand too -- the carrier doesn't have to roll a truck to install hardware on customer premises. (See Wind River Launches NFV 'App Store', Overture Adds Hardware to Its NFV Pitch , NFV-Enabled Ethernet for Generating New Revenues , and Cyan Debuts Planet Orchestrate to Manage Physical & Virtual Network Resources.)

There are other benefits too, but the CEO and CFO don't have to worry about those.

Like Tom, I'm reminded of the PC and Internet revolutions. A fundamental characteristic of those revolutions is they started small. PCs came into the office when accountants wanted to run spreadsheets without having to get the blessing of IT every time. The Internet at first just involved installing a web browser on employees' PCs, and putting up some company literature on the web, maybe sell a couple of products. Evangelists could build on small success and iterate until, soon enough, they'd upended the entire world economy.

But how do you get off to a small start with SDN? As Tom points out, it's hard.

NFV isn't so difficult. You can do a small NFV pilot, achieve a small but tangible benefit, and use that benefit to justify a bigger investment.

That's how revolutions are made.

So is SDN a loser? No. Operators at our recent Big Telecom Event said they need SDN to get the full benefits of NFV. With a single or a few virtualized functions, you gain some flexibility and economy locally, but SDN helps to deliver all the efficiencies and agility that NFV can, in theory, deliver across a broad network.

In that respect, the SDN and NFV revolution is like the PC and Internet revolutions that came before: You start out making small changes around the edges -- putting a few PCs on desktops to run spreadsheets, or putting your company's catalog and brochures on the Internet -- build on those benefits, until before long you're rebuilding the entire network infrastructure around the new technology. (See NFV 'Irrelevant' in Long Term, ONF Reckons.)

For more on some of the developments around NFV, see Exclusive: Leaked 'Inception' Document Fleshes Out Open-Source NFV Plans and NFV 'Inception' Meeting Highlights Tectonic Shift in Telecom.

— 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 wagner@lightreading.com.

(4)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
sam masud
50%
50%
sam masud,
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/21/2014 | 12:45:59 PM
Re: Au contraire
I'd say (optimistically) 3 year, realistically more like 5 years....talking about SDN in carrier networks.
kq4ym
50%
50%
kq4ym,
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/21/2014 | 11:56:56 AM
Re: Au contraire
I'm wondering what the time scale is for SDN to mature. Would it be the equivalent of going from oiffice PC to internet? It sure seems like the interval would be vastly less time, and if that's so, why not go into it now and not wait for a later maturity factor?
sam masud
50%
50%
sam masud,
User Rank: Light Sabre
7/18/2014 | 2:45:51 PM
Au contraire
Mitch,

Many moons ago, the head of a very large IT department told me something that I've kept mind when it comes to new network technologies. Bascially, what he said was "that I can change all of the desktops any day, but don't mess with my network." This was at a time when there was a lot of noise about ISDN.

Although the above is not a very good analogy, you could say NFV is like PCs to SDN.

For all the hype, it will take a long time for SDN to mature...I only have to think back to how long it took to adapt a mature technology like Ethernet for carrier grade services.

 
TomNolle
100%
0%
TomNolle,
User Rank: Light Sabre
7/18/2014 | 12:12:20 PM
NFV DOES Have it Easier
I think you're right that NFV has it easier than SDN.  First, as you say, one of its value propositions--reduction in capex because of substitution of hosted functionality for expensive devices--is easy to understand and apply.  But second, NFV is about management and orchestration, which means that it has to solve those issues explicitly.  SDN is really about the same thing, but it occurs north of those "northbound APIs" where nobody seems to have much to say or offer.  If NFV gets MANO right, they could apply the lesson to SDN and be the real driver of SDN, not the ONF.
More Blogs from Column
As the industry looks to aggressively ramp up NFV efforts, it becomes critical for strong and interoperable industry standards to eliminate vendor lock-ins and create a marketplace for best-in-breed services.
Today's telcos and communication service providers are more vulnerable to large-scale DDoS attacks than ever.
But this story will take years to write.
A few myths have emerged about microservices that need to be addressed, says Ciena's Abel Tong.
New and exciting methods of automation – whether virtualization, the cloud, IoT or even best practices like network segmentation – tend to emphasize innovation over visibility. As such, networks develop blind spots that mask network problems and even faulty devices.
From The Founder
Kicking off BCE 2017, Light Reading founder Steve Saunders lays blame for NFV's slow ramp-up and urges telecom to return to old-fashioned standards building and interoperability.
Flash Poll
Live Streaming Video
Charting the CSP's Future
Six different communications service providers join to debate their visions of the future CSP, following a landmark presentation from AT&T on its massive virtualization efforts and a look back on where the telecom industry has been and where it's going from two industry veterans.
LRTV Custom TV
The Overall Objective Is to Win the Game

6|26|17   |     |   (0) comments


SCTE•ISBE's Chris Bastian discusses Energy 2020's success to date and the importance of a flexible approach that allows for changes in specific strategies in order to reach significant milestones.
LRTV Interviews
CenturyLink: Let's Get Past SD-WAN Hype

6|23|17   |   04:02   |   (0) comments


Technology becomes a "shiny object" unless it's properly focused on solving business needs for enterprise customers, says Bill Grubbs, network solutions architect for CenturyLink. He explains to Light Reading why SD-WAN deployments have to be tailored to specific needs – and more.
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
Infinera's Sales Director Paints Tech's Big Picture

6|21|17   |   4:14   |   (1) comment


Shannon Williams, Infinera's director of sales, shares how she achieves work's many balancing acts -- between her role and the broader company, today and tomorrow's tech and more.
LRTV Custom TV
SD-WAN Innovation & Trends

6|20|17   |     |   (0) comments


Versa CEO Kelly Ahuja discusses with Carol Wilson the current status and trends in the SD-WAN market, Versa's innovation around building a software platform with broad contextualization, and the advantages that startups can bring to the SD-WAN market.
LRTV Interviews
Ovum's Dario Talmesio on 5G in Europe

6|20|17   |   02:16   |   (0) comments


At 5G World 2017, Dario Talmesio, principal analyst and practice leader on Ovum's fixed and mobile telecoms European team, explains the emerging trends amongst European operators as they prepare for 5G.
LRTV Custom TV
Putting Power on a Pedestal

6|19|17   |     |   (0) comments


ARRIS's John Ulm says a major accomplishment of SCTE•ISBE's Energy 2020 program is increased focus on power cost and consumption, including inclusion of energy requirements in operators' RFPs and RFIs.
LRTV Custom TV
Gigabit Access: The Last-Mile Pipe for All Future Services

6|19|17   |     |   (0) comments


A Gigabit access platform being deployed today must be able to deliver all types of services to an increasing number of devices. A non-blocking architecture is necessary to support the ever-increasing growth in bandwidth demand. The Huawei Gigabit access solution is based on a distributed design that is fully scalable to deliver a unprecedented performance.
LRTV Custom TV
Key Factors to Successfully Deploy an SD-WAN Service

6|19|17   |     |   (0) comments


As service providers transition their SD-WAN solution from trials and limited deployments into production at large scale, there are important considerations to successfully operationalize these solutions and realize their full potential, without adding complexity, introducing uncertainty or disrupting current business operations. Sunil Khandekar, CEO and Founder ...
LRTV Custom TV
IoT Solutions: Rational Exuberance

6|19|17   |     |   (0) comments


IoT solutions are morphing from hype into viable business opportunities. Huawei has the platform and ecosystem support to help carriers successfully address new business opportunities in the IoT space.
LRTV Custom TV
Realizing ICN as a Network Slice for Mobile Data Distribution

6|19|17   |     |   (1) comment


Network slicing in 5G allows the potential introduction of new network architectures such as Information-centric Networks (ICN) as a slice, managed over a shared pool of compute, storage and bandwidth resource. Services over an ICN slice can benefit from many architectural features such as Name Based Networking, Security, Multicasting, Multi-homing, Mobility, ...
LRTV Interviews
Ovum's Mike Roberts on 5G Uptake

6|19|17   |   04:08   |   (0) comments


Mike Roberts, research director for Ovum's service provider markets group, explains why he has boosted his 5G subscriptions forecast.
LRTV Interviews
AT&T's Hubbard on Intersection of SD-WAN & MPLS

6|15|17   |     |   (0) comments


Rick Hubbard, SVP of Network Product Management for AT&T Business Solutions, discusses how AT&T's approach to SD-WAN fits in with its overall virtualization strategy, explains how SD-WAN can improve enterprise customers' use of the cloud and addresses the intersection of SD-WAN and MPLS.
Upcoming Live Events
October 18, 2017, Colorado Convention Center - Denver, CO
November 1, 2017, The Montcalm Marble Arch
November 1, 2017, The Montcalm Marble Arch
November 30, 2017, The Westin Times Square
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
With the mobile ecosystem becoming increasingly vulnerable to security threats, AdaptiveMobile has laid out some of the key considerations for the wireless community.
Hot Topics
Netflix's Lesson in Culture Expectation Settings
Sarah Thomas, Director, Women in Comms, 6/21/2017
No Imagination: UK Chip Biz Goes Up for Sale
Iain Morris, News Editor, 6/22/2017
Does AT&T Deserve Time Warner?
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 6/23/2017
Kalanick Steps Down as Uber CEO
Sarah Thomas, Director, Women in Comms, 6/21/2017
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
Following a recent board meeting, the New IP Agency (NIA) has a new strategy to help accelerate the adoption of NFV capabilities, explains the Agency's Founder and Secretary, Steve Saunders.
One of the nice bits of my job (other than the teeny tiny salary, obviously) is that I get to pick and choose who I interview for this slot on the Light Reading home ...
Animals with Phones
Live Digital Audio

Playing it safe can only get you so far. Sometimes the biggest bets have the biggest payouts, and that is true in your career as well. For this radio show, Caroline Chan, general manager of the 5G Infrastructure Division of the Network Platform Group at Intel, will share her own personal story of how she successfully took big bets to build a successful career, as well as offer advice on how you can do the same. We’ll cover everything from how to overcome fear and manage risk, how to be prepared for where technology is going in the future and how to structure your career in a way to ensure you keep progressing. Chan, a seasoned telecom veteran and effective risk taker herself, will also leave plenty of time to answer all your questions live on the air.