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NFV (Network functions virtualization)

NFV Drives Operators Toward Digital Operations

A recent Heavy Reading survey, conducted for Huawei in advance of its Digital Operations Transformation Summit at Mobile World Congress on Sunday, uncovered a strong link between digital operations and network functions virtualization (NFV). Over two-thirds of survey respondents say they are working on digital operations and network virtualization simultaneously or are preparing a digital operations strategy before embarking on network virtualization.

There was significant alignment between operators' NFV and digital operations objectives. Respondents expect both initiatives to accelerate service delivery and the creation of new services. They also want a combination of NFV and digital operations to help their companies remain competitive, for example, by enabling them to provide an improved and differentiated customer experience. Respondents rank opex reduction slightly higher as a goal for digital operations than for network virtualization, possibly a reflection of just how much pressure operations are under to lower costs, as well as an acknowledgement that in the short term, NFV increases opex as organizational change, re-training and re-tooling bite.

The survey confirmed a strong desire from the network operations side of operator organizations to acquire IT skill sets and tools to support digital operations and high interest in the merger of IT and network organizations. Respondents say they are out shopping for systems that manage and orchestrate the NFV infrastructure and that they urgently need personnel with OpenStack, VMware, SDN and software-defined data center management skills. This is no surprise, given that most CSPs are in the very early stages of NFV, concerned with standing up the new cloud platform(s) that will execute virtual network functions.

It isn't news, of course, that NFV is pushing operators toward operational transformation, but it is interesting to see the digital operations focus shift quite so sharply to network-facing issues. OSS functions have long been the Cinderellas of the operational stack but they are emerging into the spotlight as a result of network virtualization. The gravitational waves this shift is causing are barely detectable -- yet -- at BSS layers. But they will have an impact on the customer experience, implications for charging models and place new demands on order management and product/service catalogs. Although respondents' immediate focus is the set of management and orchestration capabilities needed to support NFV and SDN, they also signaled that security, big data and analytics, customer experience and end-to-end service orchestration (lifecycle management automation) tools are next on their digital operations transformation shopping lists.

The Summit explored many of these topics with service providers from a wide range of markets round the world with different digital business transformation objectives and perspectives. A radio show will follow MWC, which will describe the highlights of the discussion and summarize the best practices leading operators are adopting on their journeys toward digital operations transformation.

This blog is sponsored by Huawei.

— Caroline Chappell, Practice Leader, Cloud & NFV, Heavy Reading

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