& 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
In the second part of a two-part series, Paul Robinson explains why the move to live IP production is an opportunity to significantly change the viewing experience, and more importantly, open up new revenue and business opportunities.
One thing is certain: the coming technology changes will affect everyone to varying degrees, including content providers, service providers and equipment makers.
It's time for our industry to call BS on the US government's position on Chinese telco manufacturers.
There are important considerations for companies to keep in mind when moving Domain Name System (DNS) infrastructure to an NFV implementation.
The lies, damned lies and statistics of real open access network operations.
From The Founder
Light Reading sits down at CES with the head of Cisco's service provider video business, Conrad Clemson, to discuss how NFV and cloud security relate to video, the challenge of managing 4K/8K traffic, the global expansion of Netflix and virtual reality.
Flash Poll
Live Streaming Video
CLOUD / MANAGED SERVICES: Prepping Ethernet for the Cloud
Moderator: Ray LeMaistre Panelists: Jeremy Bye, Leonard Sheahan
LRTV Documentaries
All Change in Video

2|11|16   |   33:12   |   (1) comment


At this moderated panel at 2020 Vision in Dublin, Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader of Light Reading, sits down with Jeff Finkelstein, director of network architecture at Cox Communications, to discuss the rapidly changing video market.
LRTV Custom TV
Hosting in Ireland, Past & Present

2|10|16   |   16:07   |   (0) comments


Garry Connolly, president of Host in Ireland, presents the keynote at Light Reading's 2020 Vision Executive Summit in Dublin.
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
What's Hot in Mobile Commerce?

2|10|16   |   12:18   |   (1) comment


Claire Maslen, financial services relationship manager at the GSMA, talks about the development of the digital commerce sector and the types of relationships that mobile operators are developing to further their m-commerce strategies.
LRTV Documentaries
EANTC Tests Nokia IP Routing & Mobile Gateway VNFs for Real World Deployment

2|9|16   |   5:08   |   (1) comment


Nokia obtained validation of its virtualized router and virtualized mobile gateway capabilities through rigorous testing performed by EANTC. The results set a new industry benchmark for outstanding performance, scalability, resiliency and manageability. Nokia VNFs are ready for telco cloud deployment, so that service providers can accelerate mobile, business and ...
Between the CEOs
CEO Chat With Level 3's Jack Waters

2|8|16   |   26:15   |   (1) comment


Light Reading CEO and founder Steve Saunders sits down with Level 3 Communications' CTO Jack Waters to discuss hot topics like virtualization, 4K and the future of telecom...
LRTV Custom TV
The Composable Telco

2|8|16   |   24:46   |   (0) comments


Heavy Reading's Principal Analyst Caroline Chappell presents the keynote at Light Reading's 2020 Vision Executive Summit in Dublin.
LRTV Custom TV
Join Us at the Digital Operations Transformation Summit

2|4|16   |   03:52   |   (0) comments


The Digital Operations Transformation Summit on February 21, 2016 at the Crowne Plaza Barcelona Fira Centre will bring together 50 senior executives to engage in a unique debate on the opportunities and challenges presented by the transformative evolving digital landscape. RSVP now at events@lightreading.com.
LRTV Custom TV
Making the Test: ADVA Ensemble Connector vs. Open vSwitch

2|4|16   |   01:28   |   (0) comments


Light Reading, in partnership with EANTC, recently tested ADVA's Ensemble Connector, which replaces open vSwitch and offers carrier-grade capability and interoperability. The test results strengthen ADVA's credibility as a provider in the virtualization space.
LRTV Custom TV
Bridging the Gap Between PoCs & Deployment in NFV

2|4|16   |   31:50   |   (0) comments


Charlie Ashton of Wind River presents the keynote at Light Reading's 2020 Vision executive summit in Dublin.
Between the CEOs
CEO Chat With Mike Aquino

2|3|16   |   17:34   |   (0) comments


The former CEO of Overture Networks, Mike Aquino, discusses why truly open virtualization solutions provide service providers with the greatest choice.
Shades of Ray
MWC: Buckle Up for 5G & the IIoT

2|2|16   |   02:28   |   (0) comments


This year's Mobile World Congress looks set to be a 5G land grab and a chance to get down and dirty with the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) – but what will the 5G discussions actually be about?
LRTV Custom TV
Case Study: Building China's Next-Gen TV Networks

2|2|16   |   5:01   |   (0) comments


With over 2 billion viewers worldwide, Shenzhen Media Group is one of China's largest content producers. By partnering with Huawei and Sobey, SZMG was able to modernize media operations with the Converged News Center, a production studio that is a model for next-generation workflows.
Upcoming Live Events
March 10, 2016, The Cable Center, Denver, CO
April 5, 2016, The Ritz Carlton, Charlotte, NC
May 23, 2016, Austin, TX
May 24-25, 2016, Austin Convention Center, Austin, TX
All Upcoming Live Events
Hot Topics
Yahoo & Verizon Sitting in a Tree...
Brian Santo, Senior editor, Test & Measurement / Components, Light Reading, 2/8/2016
AT&T Lights Fire Under 5G, Plans 2016 Trials
Iain Morris, News Editor, 2/12/2016
Vodafone: Flexible Work Policies Boost Profits
Sarah Thomas, Editorial Operations Director, 2/8/2016
It's Time to Integrate OTT Video
Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, 2/8/2016
Andreessen Facepalms on Facebook Free Basics
Mitch Wagner, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading, 2/10/2016
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
Webinar Archive
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
Light Reading CEO and founder Steve Saunders sits down with Level 3 Communications' CTO Jack Waters to discuss hot topics like virtualization, 4K and the future of telecom...
The former CEO of Overture Networks, Mike Aquino, discusses why truly open virtualization solutions provide service providers with the greatest choice.
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 G.fast for copper plant evolution and the various deployment possibilities for FTTH/B.