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NFV (Network functions virtualization)

Virtualization Frustration Sees Telcos Rebel

Open sores
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."

Open Source Confusion
Roberto Kung of Orange complains about the proliferation of open source groups.
Roberto Kung of Orange complains about the proliferation of open source groups.

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.)

Get Moving
Deutsche Telekom's Soren Trebst says vendors need to step up their NFV act.
Deutsche Telekom's Soren Trebst says vendors need to step up their NFV act.

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.

Next page: Cloudy future

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gleavieboy 11/8/2016 | 2:27:00 PM
Failing the 18 wheeler test? Hardly a shocker, Iain.  You can't become a software company just by saying that you are one. I imagine that today we're seeing a lot of [legacy] monolithic software simply ported to run on virtual machines.  In most if not all cases that will still have underlying hardware dependencies and the software is nothing like "cloud-native" or capable of delivering the benefits that microservices promise.  It's good to see the larger operators starting to publicly question these limitations.  Now they need to follow through.  The industry won't realize the true benefits of NFV if the large carriers continue to think  that their traditional suppliers will get them there in a timely fashion - especially as those vendors continue to ship them "software" on 18 wheelers. 
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