NFV (Network functions virtualization)

ABI Pins $6B Value on Mobile SDN/NFV

While operators and their vendors are still figuring out how software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV) will affect wide area communications networks outside the data center, one industry research firm has rubbed its crystal ball to quantify the trend in the mobile networks market, and has picked out two legacy hardware vendors as being well placed to deliver on NFV in particular.

A new ABI Research report forecasts that mobile network virtualization alone will drive $6 billion in annual spending by 2018, as 3G and 4G network owners start virtualizing their services planes, followed by their control and data planes.

ABI also identifies Nokia Solutions and Networks (NSN) and Cisco Systems Inc. as being "best positioned" to deliver on NFV's promise. That may come as a surprise to those who feel that the trend towards software and virtualization nudging hardware out of networks puts today's major box sellers at a distinct disadvantage in this emerging sector.

But ABI believes NSN is "most aligned with NFV," in part by virtualizing its Liquid Core network with commercial ATCA and Hewlett-Packard Co. servers. The research firm also says Cisco's nascent server business and ASR series router software should play to its advantage.

The report, titled The SDN and NFV Business Case, further notes that the parallel technology trends will result more in operational expense savings than capital expense savings in the early years of adoption, perhaps indicating the initial price of SDN and NFV platforms and applications will not necessarily turn the network equipment ecosystem inside-out overnight.

And some observers have noted the complexity of NFV implementations could make the whole transformation a bit of a slog, though one that eventually will take hold. (See NFV in the Cloud: It's Complicated and NFV: Set to Break the Big Box Brands.)

The report surfaces as vendor claims of early SDN successes start to hit the market. (See Cyan's SDN Customer Wins Soar to 85).

— Dan O'Shea, Managing Editor, Light Reading

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