NICE, France -- TM Forum Live! 2015 -- Smaller and less well known SDN and NFV vendors are stealing a march on the more established equipment providers and could trigger a major industry upheaval over the next six to nine months, according to a senior executive from UK fixed-line incumbent BT.
Speaking at the TM Forum's annual conference in Nice this week, Chris Bilton, BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA)'s director of research and technology, delivered a troubling message for the behemoths of the telecom equipment market when asked which vendors are taking the lead on NFV and SDN.
"There are some really interesting solutions from less well known, smaller vendors out there that are probably stealing a march on bigger players," he told conference attendees. "The difference the last nine months has made is absolutely remarkable and I'm sure the next six to nine months will see another shake-out that will be of benefit to operators."
Bilton's comments received backing from Patrick Kelly, the founder of Appledore Research, which has been analyzing the capabilities of vendors in the NFV and SDN market.
"When you look at the VNF [virtual network functions] marketplace you may see more and more innovation and funding for startups," he said. "We're already seeing evidence of smaller suppliers coming out of the IT and DevOps environment and competing against more established players, and they are making pretty good inroads here."
Those assessments are especially interesting in light of the multivendor approach to NFV and SDN rollout that a number of leading operators are now taking.
In late February, Vip mobile , the Serbian subsidiary of Telekom Austria Group , was revealed to be using a variety of NFV vendors on the deployment of a 4G core network. (See Telekom Austria Builds Multi-Vendor NFV 4G Core .)
Vendors involved in the project include Connectem Inc. (virtual EPC), Metaswitch Networks (virtual IMS) and OpenCloud Ltd. (virtual VoLTE application server), as well as Procera Networks , Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC), VMware Inc. (NYSE: VMW) and Red Hat Inc. (NYSE: RHT).
French incumbent Orange (NYSE: FTE) is another operator that has been working with a range of NFV and SDN specialists on services aimed at small and midsized enterprise customers. (See Orange Unveils NFV-Based Offering for SMBs.)
Its partners include Activiti (on the orchestration layer), UBiqube Plc (for the VNF manager), Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) (whose Contrail technology is used for the SDN controller) and Versa Networks (on VNF).
Operators are clearly being drawn to NFV and SDN technology because it allows them to use a variety of network suppliers and avoid being "locked in" to a single player's solutions.
Bilton stopped of advocating a multivendor strategy outright but repeatedly emphasized the importance of "modularity" and "interoperability" during his conference presentation.
"Telcos like to buy boilerplate capabilities and integrate a lot of that together themselves, acting as the systems integrators in many cases," he said. "The IT industry typically buys integrated solutions and you'll see a flexing of these two models in future. There'll definitely be some supply side mash-up and open source will be a really important area."
The BT executive also cited a device he called the "rouver" as a new example of the convergence taking place between the IT and telecom sectors.
Described as a cross between a router and a server, the rouver could help to reduce costs and support different network functions at customer premises, according to Bilton.
"These devices are being developed by a number of companies and will have a lot of benefits," he said.
— Iain Morris, , News Editor, Light Reading