Were licensing the only virtualization hurdle, operators could perhaps feel more optimistic about progress. But it is not. Somewhat irked with the vendor community, operators are playing an increasingly prominent role in various open source initiatives, which aim partly to address the interoperability and standardization challenges surrounding virtualization. Yet with the proliferation of these groups -- which now include AT&T's ECOMP, the OPEN-O initiative backed by Chinese telcos and the Open Source MANO project from specifications body European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) -- there is a clear risk of fragmentation.
"There are three [major] open source initiatives and that is bad," says Orange's Kung. "I think we should have one open source and that we should contribute to and improve that to be competitive against our real competitors -- the OTT [over-the-top] players."
At a technical level, service providers are exhorting Huawei and other vendors to shape up. Vodafone Germany, which already claims to serve about 25 million customers using VNFs, wants to reduce the time it takes to "onboard" a VNF from six weeks to just two days. Another objective is to be able to allocate virtualization resources more efficiently and make them "site-independent." "It still takes a week to move an app from one site to another and that needs to go down to about 30 minutes," says Soren Trebst, Vodafone Germany's senior vice president of network operations. (See Vodafone Germany Urges NFV Vendors to 'Step Up' Efforts.)
If it can provide support for end-to-end orchestration, and what Trebst describes as "full-scale automation," Vodafone Germany should be able to reduce its current operating costs by 30-40%, he reckons. But orchestration remains one of the industry's biggest headaches. "There are lots of promises but I've still not seen domain and services orchestration working as a live application," he says.
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