Many telecom operators around the world are currently in the midst of transforming their data center environments. In response to an increasingly competitive landscape, they are deploying new technologies that they expect to provide benefits in terms of lowered costs and increased revenues. Over-the-top and cloud-based players are innovating at a rapid pace, and telecom operators are finding it difficult to compete using their existing infrastructure. Whereas in the past, data centers were used primarily to support internal functions, today they are being used to support end-user applications and content. NFV and SDN are emerging as critical technologies to help telecom operators operate more quickly and efficiently.
NFV will allow operators to move away from purpose-built hardware platforms towards lower-cost, general-purpose servers. More importantly, once functions have been virtualized, service creation can be automated, leading to faster time-to-market and lower operational costs. In recent research from Heavy Reading, 51% of telecom operators indicated that they would deploy NFV to achieve "service flexibility and agility," while 31% said they expected to achieve "hardware-related opex reduction." To date, telecom operators have seen virtualization and cloudification in terms of providing services to enterprise customers and internal workloads. Now, they must also consider how to support the requirements of virtualized network functions (VNFs). Of key importance is ensuring that service availability does not suffer as a result of moving to new platforms.
SDN architectures are being proposed to support the need to better manage an increasingly complex data center networking environment. They offer the promise of more automation, simplifying service creation and delivery. Server-to-server communication between Internet and web applications means that traffic runs east/west -- leading to increased networking needs within the data center. Virtualization, of servers today, and of network functions in the coming years, is also driving demand for more server connectivity. The increasing importance of cloud-based services is driving requirements for greater elasticity and mobility. The management of all the plethora of servers, routers, switches and network applications, such as those for firewall and load balancing, is becoming more challenging and complex. The need to add capacity in a cost-effective manner and automate service delivery is leading data center operators to consider a new approach to networking.
The data center is an increasingly strategic asset for telecom operators. By leveraging the emerging technologies of NFV and SDN, along with cloudification, they have the opportunity to both reduce their operational expenses, and deliver services more cost-effectively and efficiently. The pace of innovation shows no sign of slowing down, so operators should move with urgency towards data center transformation in order to ensure their future success.
— Roz Roseboro, Senior Analyst, Heavy Reading