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Who's Steering Vodafone's NFV Ship?

Ray Le Maistre

With Vodafone at a critical early stage in its network virtualization plans, dubbed "Ocean" by the operator, who's actually steering that particular corporate strategy at the operator?

David Amzallag, who as group head of network virtualization, SDN and NFV at Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD), led the Ocean strategy from inception in mid-2015 until the end of last week, has just left the operator, but Vodafone has not announced his replacement. (See Amzallag, Vodafone's SDN & NFV Man, Leaving in June and Vodafone Hires NFV Specialist to Develop Group Virtualization Strategy.)

So who's taking over at the helm? Light Reading has learned that Fran Heeran, until recently the senior vice president and general manager of the SDN/NFV Business team at Netcracker Technology Corp. , is stepping into the role and will take responsibility for the ambitious network and service delivery transformation program that has SDN, NFV and automation at its heart.

All Aboard!
The new captain of Vodafone's virtualization vessel, Fran Heeran.
The new captain of Vodafone's virtualization vessel, Fran Heeran.

Like Amzallag, Heeran is a former Alcatel-Lucent executive, holding a number of roles (including senior vice president and general manager, Communications & Collaboration Business) from 2011 until January 2016, by which time AlcaLu had become part of Nokia. Prior to AlcaLu, Heeran worked at telecom API platform specialist Aepona, which was subsequently acquired by Intel.

Amzallag was VP of virtual telecommunications and NFV at Alcatel-Lucent from 2012 to mid-2015.

Vodafone declined to comment when asked if Heeran is the operator's new head of virtualization.

Heeran's appointment will likely cause something of a stir, as he has been closely involved in the development of Netcracker's NFV MANO (management and orchestration) system, which has been gaining traction with operators recently. Vodafone has yet to announce its preferred MANO supplier, but Netcracker, part of the NEC Corp. (Tokyo: 6701) empire, is believed to be one of the suppliers in the running.

Vodafone has already named a number of key Ocean vendor partners, including Mirantis for OpenStack and Juniper and Nokia's Nuage for SDN controllers. (See Mirantis Sails Into Vodafone Ocean and Vodafone's Ocean Floats Nokia's Boat.)

The vendor selection process for the Ocean project proved somewhat frustrating for Amzallag at times: He often made public calls for vendors to develop "cloud native" virtual network functions, rather than just offering software versions of their legacy hardware-based products and criticized the vendor community at large for its approach to virtualization technology pricing models. (See Vodafone: The Pricing Isn't Right and Vodafone: Desperately Seeking Cloud-Centric Tech.)

Now it looks like Heeran will be picking up those challenges and taking Ocean to the next phase.

— Ray Le Maistre, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, International Group Editor, Light Reading

Make sure your company and services are listed free of charge at Virtuapedia, the comprehensive set of searchable databases covering the companies, products, industry organizations and people that are directly involved in defining and shaping the virtualization industry.

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