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Vodafone: Virtualization Vendors Must Put Up or Shut Up

Ray Le Maistre

THE HAGUE -- SDN NFV World Congress -- Fran Heeran has hardly warmed his seat as the lead virtualization executive at Vodafone and he's already got the hump with the vendor community.

Talking here during a closed door briefing organized by his former employer NetCracker, Heeran, who took over as group head of network virtualization (SDN and NFV), at Vodafone little more than three months ago, expressed his frustration with vendors and suppliers that talk about delivering disaggregated software products and being willing to collaborate in multivendor engagements, but then fail to deliver on such promises. (See Who's Steering Vodafone's NFV Ship?)

"We need to get away from legacy business models and legacy systems," stressed Heeran, who is tasked with getting the operator's Ocean project to commercial reality. (See BCE 2016: Vodafone to Make Waves With Its 'Ocean' Virtualization Strategy and Vodafone Demands 'Cloud-Native' From Its Vendors.)

He said that Vodafone, and other operators, are now reaching the point where cloud-based service delivery is becoming a reality but that the new telco model will not work if operators are in any way dependent on vendor-specific hardware.

Further, he noted that multiple vendors are guilty of talking up their hardware-independent virtual network functions (VNFs) and other software tools but then trying to package them into a broader offering that ties that software to specific hardware platforms.

That's not what Heeran wants, and his patience is wearing thin.

He's also got the hump with vendors that won't play nice with the other kids. Technology supplier collaboration is an absolute requirement in the cloudification process, but it seems there are some that still can't bring themselves to get with the program.

"We want vendors to collaborate more efficiently … [but] the federation of responsibility is something we haven't cracked yet," noted Heeran, who said that under the operator's new model, each service will involve technology elements or functions from at least four or five different vendors as part of the end-to-end delivery process.

"But some vendors are still too precious about who they will play with. There is still an 'I can't work with these people' attitude … we appreciate that here are some sensitivities, but those attitudes need to go away."

The message is quite clear, and it's echoed by other operators struggling with traditional industry culture. The industry has changed, and the companies that want to be involved in the future need to actually adopt new working practices, otherwise that cozy long-term relationship with a Tier 1 customer might just melt away.

— Ray Le Maistre, International Group Editor, Light Reading

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