HP announcing its network functions virtualization (NFV) initiative today was like a surprise party where the guest of honor has already caught a glimpse of the people hiding behind the sofa. Jumping out and yelling "surprise!" is unsatisfying, but hopefully you can still enjoy the cake and balloon animals.
HP Inc. (NYSE: HPQ) today introduced OpenNFV, a program designed to help service providers accelerate innovation and launch new services faster and cheaper, helping them compete with faster, more flexible over-the-top (OTT) players. HP quoted a study from Ovum which said OTT social messaging applications cost service providers $32.5 billion in lost messaging revenues last year, increasing to $54 billion by 2016.
As part of the program, HP announced appointing Bethany Mayer, currently senior vice president and general manager of HP Networking, to head up HP's NFV strategy. That's the big surprise that got spoiled last week, as the internal memo announcing Mayer's appointment leaked out. (See: HP Preps Launch of NFV Unit – Report.)
Also, HP launched an open standards-based NFV Reference Architecture, HP OpenNFV Labs, and HP OpenNFV Partner Program for NFV applications and services. The company bragged about its 30 years of experience with service provider customers, as well as more than 5,000 telco professionals on the payroll.
The HP OpenNFV reference architecture incorporates physical servers, storage and networking, virtualization, SDN controllers, resource management and orchestration, analytics, telco applications, and operating support systems (OSS).
HP OpenNFV labs are designed to give partners resources to test interoperability of their applications.
HP updated several applications and services as part of the OpenNFV program, including:
- HP Virtual Home Subscriber Server, to allow operators to scale and manage subscribers' identities across multiple networks
- HP Multimedia Services Environment, to consolidate operators' network applications on a common infrastructure and launch new multimedia applications
- HP Content Delivery Network Software to handle physical delivery of media assets to the end-user
- NFV Consulting Services, to help service providers plan and implement NFV functionality
- HP Financial Services, to steady service providers' hands as they write those big checks to HP.
The new network virtualization business, announced at Mobile World Congress, is part of HP's multi-year turnaround, as it eases away from relying on PCs to networking and services. Revenues declined in the first quarter, but the decline was less than analyst expectations.
HP joins a crowded network virtualization marketplace. A big HP differentiator is its partner program. "Our belief is that no single company can deliver on the promise of NFV," Ghassan Abdo, senior director of worldwide communications service providers at HP, said in an interview with Light Reading. "The market buzz is the same, but it's the implementation, how we deliver the proof of concept of developers, that will make a difference." (See Understanding the Market for Network Virtualization and Vendors Catch NFV Fever.)
The worldwide labs will be differentiators as well, enabling partners to apply real-world tests to NFV theory. "We'll provide equipment, test interoperability, whatever is needed," Abdo said.
HP's breadth is another strength. HP provides networking, servers, and software, all of which are affected by NFV, IDC analyst Nav Chander said in an interview with Light Reading.
"They are beyond just talking about relationships," he said. "They're already beyond the talk, implementing some of the things they're doing with service providers like Verizon, BT, and others."
HP is partnering with companies, such as Alcatel-Lucent, that they otherwise compete with, Chander said.
And the labs program and training demonstrate a strong financial commitment to NFV by HP, Chander said. "They want to be regarded as one of the leading companies in network virtualization. Six months ago I wouldn't have put HP on top of the list, but they're definitely in a leadership role now."