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A Big Week for NFV

Ray Le Maistre

More than ever before, the industry's eyes are focused on the network functions virtualization (NFV) Industry Specification Group (ISG) that is helping to shake up the telecoms technology sector.

The group, formed about a year ago under the auspices of the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) , has battled through its formative months and is now entering a period when it can truly shape the R&D and strategic roadmaps of network operators and the vendor community for years to come. (See NFV Group Finds Its Feet.)

Now the members, of which there are about 130 (mostly vendors), are gathering for its fourth meeting, being held this coming week (October 30 – November 1) in Sunnyvale, Calif., with Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) the host. The group has little more than a year left to pin down guidance and specifications for the industry (it was always set to have a two-year shelf-life) so it can't afford to waste any time, though that's a tough task for any organization that bases its decisions on consensus.

It's especially tough when there is so much to lose and so much to gain for many of the member companies. While some in the industry are fully embracing the open source model, others are not convinced (and that includes operators as well as vendors). (See One Problem With NFV.)

But there has been incredible progress made in recent months, with the NFV Showcase that took center stage at the recent SDN & OpenFlow World Congress a case in point. (See this whitepaper for the details.)

What's key at the upcoming meeting is that the lead carrier members of the group keep in mind the key questions that they were asking from their initial gathering in Germany a year ago: Can NFV deliver true operational and financial benefits to network operators and will it make life easier, or more difficult, in the long run?

Those are very tough questions to answer, especially the second one. The operators, more than anything do not want to put their combined weight behind a new technology direction that takes them down an operational road to hell that's even worse than the silos and technology lock-ins that make life tough now.

Every hour of these NFV ISG meetings can make a difference to the future of all involved: The group's leaders need to make sure that the path towards a greater good is not blocked by those with less egalitarian ideals.

— Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

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Carol Wilson
Carol Wilson,
User Rank: Blogger
10/27/2013 | 11:38:32 AM
Working to a deadline
It will be interesting to see how imposing a two-year deadline for a group like this works out  -- if it gives them the sense of urgency needed to resolve conflicts quickly and move on, or if it leads to splintering and uncertainty. Ray is obviously pushing for the former, which would be better for the industry, assuming haste doesn't not make waste in terms of making the right decisions. Uncertainty always seems to be the enemy when charting technological progress. 
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