Having virtualized enterprise networks, VMware sees NFV as a chance to crack into carrier networks. Shekar Ayyar's job is to make sure the company is poised to give it a go.
This push began a couple of years ago, as VMware had nearly saturated its vSphere customer base and sought new markets. That's why last week's VMworld put so much focus on re-emphasizing the company's public-cloud ambitions. (See Following Amazon Partnership, VMware Is a Cloud Company Now.)
But the service provider world is new to VMware. As executive vice president of strategy for VMware's Telco Group, Ayyar's job is to get both sides accustomed to one another.
His Telco NFV team includes CTO Constantine Polychronopoulos, whose Bytemobile startup was acquired by Citrix in 2012. Honore' LaBourdette, VP of global market development, helps spread the team's message internally, and Gabriele Di Piazza, vice president of solutions, points VMware's product development teams toward features that would be useful to service providers. (See VMware's NFVi Push Embraces OPEN-O and VMware Makes Major MWC Splash.)
We chatted with Ayyar briefly at VMworld last week and got his perspective on VMware's place in the carrier universe.
Light Reading: You've told me VMware can play a strong role in ONAP. What did you mean by that?
Shekar Ayyar: You've got two large carriers, between AT&T and China Mobile. [Their efforts in ECOMP and Open-O led to the creation of ONAP.] While these guys can probably debate over the next 15 years, everybody else wants to get moving. They want to put something in production.
What we are intending to do is play a bridge role between them. We don't expect to be the catalyst that brings uniformity to AT&T's aspirations or China Mobile's. But we do expect to be a seat at the table in terms of how that dialogue evolves -- for example, by chairing some of the subcommittees and technical groups, particularly on orchestration and VIM and so on.
We can bring our knowledge of how to make these things operational for the rest of the world. AT&T probably has tens of thousands of developers, so if they want to build everything themselves, of course they can. We can bring in the knowledge of how these things might operate in the environment outside of AT&T and China Mobile and help the other carriers. (See MANO Marriage: ECOMP, OPEN-O Converge as ONAP.)
LR: Business-wise, how much does NFV mean to VMware?
Ayyar: We aren't publishing numbers on NFV revenue. But we are publishing numbers in terms of deployments. We've got 90 deployments now spread across roughly 45 carriers. We just announced the largest-ever telco deal that we have done to date, with Vodafone, and it was for NFV. These numbers are not insignificant. (See VMware's Hybrid Cloud Plans Pay Off.)
I see this as an opportunity, at least a multi-billion-dollar opportunity for VMware as well as our peers, in just a pure-play NFV infrastructure sense. You add the VNFs on top and the hardware underneath, and that leads you to a $10 billion type of number.
So, I'd say there is definitely the potential for a multi-hundred-million dollar opportunity in the near future.
LR: OK, I get that, but you're coming from the enterprise side. That's why I'm wondering how meaningful NFV really is to VMware.
Ayyar: Enterprise, unquestionably, is our bread and butter. If you look at the service provider markets, there are two segments that become very interesting for VMware.
One is the cloud provider movement. The other one is the telco network, where I would say that while we've got a business that is growing at a phenomenal pace today -- it's starting from a small base -- with the imminent arrival of 5G, we don't see a path to 5G without virtualization. Some carriers would have already been virtualized when they adopt 5G, others will find out that they need virtualization when they get to 5G. We think the potential is immense.