Is NFV Stuck in the Terrible Twos?

DENVER -- NFV & Carrier SDN -- While the industry is in a period of great opportunity and promise for advancement around NFV, this is also an unpredictable period that can be likened to the tumultuous toddler growth stage, Masergy's Ray Watson said in a keynote here last week.

NFV started "as a big promise that this technology would become a force multiplier," said Watson, VP of global technology for Masergy Communications Inc. , during his keynote Wednesday. "Virtualization would bring the same power that it brought the data center to the carriers to give us that agility, that web-scale and certainly web speed -- moving away from waterfall and to a DevOps model so that we could rapidly deploy services."

Masergy launched one of the earliest global deployments of NFV in 2015, and launched two SD-WAN products in the last 18 months, he added.

In examining the "good, the bad and the ugly" of NFV, Watson noted that advancement in this space has been plagued by interoperability issues, standards squabbling, performance bottlenecks and concerns over security.

Looking first at carrier-based NFV -- deploying network services like routing and firewalls on vCPE -- Watson explained that this approach eliminates complexity, reduces the carrier premises footprint and delivers significant cost savings to operators. There are downsides, however, in that it's not feasible for all network functions, and there are security concerns over whether DDoS mitigation can be performed reliably over VNFs.

Another approach to NFV is customer-premises-based where service providers could deploy white box, commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) devices that are hypervisor capable. An additional benefit to COTS devices is that service providers can avoid hardware lock-in; however, vendor lock-in remains, said Watson. This approach requires a DevOps model of rapid VNF deployments as well.

"NFV itself is a category of solutions. It's not a displacement technology, it's not going to displace every single appliance that's out there. It's a category of solutions and will continue to push our hardware vendors to move at software speed because our hardware vendors are now software vendors and they will have to be able to move that quickly."

In the premises-based model, achieving interoperability in orchestration continues to be a primary concern, in addition to security concerns such as susceptibility to DDoS attacks, hypervisor exploits and SSL exploits, said Watson.

"The decision between carrier-based and prem-based is not a mutually exclusive decision," he said. "The vast majority of NFV deployments that I see globally have elements of all of the above -- they have elements of MPLS, elements of VPLS, both prem-based and carrier based."

A subset of both of these approaches to NFV is SD-WAN, which provides real-time dynamic path allocation, new market opportunities and addresses enterprises' movement of workflows to AWS and Google. Yet the SD-WAN market is still stabilizing, adds Watson, and industry concerns remain over security, vendor lock-in, and whether SD-WAN could cannibalize existing MPLS revenue.

"The market is still shaking out, just like the toddler that falls down every now and then … the focus needs to be and is solving the customers' problems, not just chasing the technology just because it sounds good when you talk to your board," Watson said. "It's figuring out what the customer actually wants to do and then using the tools in your arsenal to solve those problems. On a more optimistic note, NFV -- just like all toddlers -- will eventually grow up."

— Kelsey Kusterer Ziser, Senior Editor, Light Reading

yarn 10/12/2017 | 9:34:50 AM
The law of conservation of misery The law of conservation of misery always applies, and NFV is no exception.
Sales52642 10/11/2017 | 7:08:43 PM
Are toddlers Generation Z? I'm not good at remembering the definitions for Baby Boomers and Millenials etc. but I've been round long enough to sense when something is inevitable. When my college aged kids go into the workplace, they will expect to be able to spin up a new office, from the comfort of their Hot Yoga class, from their mobile device, instantly. If NFV is in anyway stuck in the terrible twos, its slightly older siblings will drag it kicking and screaming into its formative years, whether it (or we) like it or not. If you like these kind of discussions, I've got a whole Group over on LinkedIn called 'Network as a Service'. Come join the fun! https://www.linkedin.com/groups/12057043
brooks7 10/4/2017 | 5:40:05 PM
Re: Refreshing NFV post @Joe,


I think I disagree that NFV is like IoT.  Computers are things, so are phones.  About all we are talking about is telemetry from devices that might have different connectivity.  Still, in the grand scheme of things IoT not too distant from Cell Phones.

With NFV, I would (in an ad abursdum manner) say the way to start is to fire 100% of the employees at a phone company.  The processes are simply incompatible with the way telcos are run.



Joe Stanganelli 10/3/2017 | 5:26:12 PM
Re: Refreshing NFV post @bdst: Yep, that's the thing about all digital-transformation efforts.

Reminds me of an event I attended where one of the speakers -- an IoT consultant -- emphasized that nobody comes to him saying that they need IoT, so much as they come to him saying that they have a business need and asking whether or not IoT can help.
Kelsey Ziser 10/3/2017 | 9:57:05 AM
Re: Refreshing NFV post The quote you mentioned reflects Ray's effort to take a holistic view during his presentation by focusing on the good, the bad and the ugly of each NFV approach. 
bdst 10/3/2017 | 5:49:58 AM
Refreshing NFV post Refreshing article on NFV. Instead of just blindly regurgitating the supposed myriad benefits of NFV this article comes at it from "the focus needs to be and is solving the customers' problems, not just chasing the technology just because it sounds good when you talk to the board".

 In the Telco core network space attempting to virtualise centralised signalling controllers (DSC's / STP's) is often a step too far. We are working with clients to sanitise their approach whilst generally taking advantage of NFV scalability / elasticity at the IP media level.
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