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NFV Not a Panacea, Carrier Execs Admit

Carol Wilson

NICE, France -- TM Forum Live! -- Virtualization is not a panacea for telecom service providers, and if done wrong won't enable them to move more quickly in developing services, two leading service provider execs warned today.

Axel Clauberg, VP-IP Aggregation, transport and fixed access, in the CTO's office at Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT), and Fred Feisullin, senior network architect in the CTO's office at Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S), spoke on a panel in the Virtualizing Everything track. They agreed that virtualization by itself -- just deploying NFV and SDN -- is far from enough for service providers who desperately need to get faster in delivering services.

"If we just virtualize, we won't solve any problem -- virtualized chaos is still chaos," Clauberg said. "We need to cloudify our environment, we need to fully automate and do lifecycle management. (See Deutsche Telekom: A Software-Defined Operator.)

Feisullin immediately agreed: "We are doing virtualization to get rid of hardware silos, so we need to make sure there are no new software silos," he said.

The key is to simplify the all-IP network infrastructure, and avoid layering on more complexity or, as Feisullin put it, "we don't want to have to orchestrate the orchestrators." (See Carriers Say SDN Won't Save Capex.)

He made his case for open standardized interfaces, a strong meta-model for services that can be applied across the entire infrastructure and a "tightly coupled orchestration capability" that will enable lower operational costs.

Both the operator execs also agreed on the need for real-world experience with virtualization that goes beyond lab trials and proofs of concept, suggesting a series of smaller steps and deployments.

"Even if we don't have standards in place, there is progress we can make short-term," Feisullin said, in response to a question about the open Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) the NFV community is considering between service and orchestration layers of the network. "Everything has to move forward together but every step we take moves us to understanding what those APIs have to be>"

By building on real-world experience with running code and constantly updating and improving on previous work, the telecom industry can move forward toward the goal of a fully virtualized, all-IP cloud- based network, Clauberg said. Starting with smaller projects such as virtualizing domain name servers will enable network operators to get experience with the process in a way that proofs of concept can't.

"We don't need billions to make that happen -- it is a step-by-step approach," he said. "We are bringing in a new element which is by nature a little more complexity but we are focused on automating everything and getting the management right."

The two vendors who joined Clauberg and Feisullin on the panel generally agreed with the tone they set, and the need for a phased approach to deploying NFV. Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU)'s David Amzallag, VP-Virtual telecom and Cloudband, admitted his company has had to take a sharp look at its ability to move from developing hardware boxes to software development. Adan Pope, CTO and VP of Technology at Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), offered his perspective on phasing in NFV, suggesting enterprise services and premises-based technologies as a place to get started.

— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading

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Mitch Wagner
Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
6/4/2014 | 2:36:19 PM
Culture club
Deploying services quickly requires changes to business processes. Simply deploying new technology isn't enough. 
User Rank: Light Sabre
6/4/2014 | 11:02:15 AM
Re: the headline
All I can say is WOW!

Phil is complaining about a snarky headline.  I believe heck has just frozen over.

Tom - I think the notion that a carrier will bulk replace 100% of its network overnight is silly.  You just said that this was the requirement for NFV.  I don't think you meant that, but anything other that 100% replacment is phased.

I think that people need to be very careful when they talk about APIs and incrementalism.  My experience has been that software teams don't deprecate things cleanly.  I think the notion at the carrier level is that APIs won't be replaced but rather augmented.  I think that this is problematic - especially if you have multiple pieces of software aligning against an API.  They will not migrate in lockstep.  Some may not move at all. 

By the way, this is a HUGE challenge in telecom.  POTS lines should support phones from the 1920s.  DSL chipsets must be able to train up at ADSL1 rates.  The long term backward compatibility is NOT a way of shrinking development cycles.


User Rank: Light Sabre
6/4/2014 | 9:55:04 AM
the headline
The headline implies that carrier execs, until now, had been saying NFV was a panacea. Now they have seen the error of their ways and they admit that NFV is NOT a panacea. 

Do we assume that those quoted in the story are the ones who made such silly claims to begin with? Are they the ones to blame for the "hype" that has infected the industry?

User Rank: Light Sabre
6/4/2014 | 9:22:16 AM
Re: Candid comments
The phased approach creates a risk for the carriers, though.  There's a current tendency to build NFV silos based on limited trials, and a risk these won't integrate end to end to provide full realization of benefits.
Carol Wilson
Carol Wilson,
User Rank: Blogger
6/4/2014 | 6:53:52 AM
Candid comments
It's refreshing to hear carrier execs being this blunt - the real-world perspective beats the hype any day.
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