CSPs crossing the virtualization chasm won't have an easy crossing due to the abundance of choices and approaches, and some are even going to have to go into the chasm in order to reap benefits of NFV, according to speakers on the Future of Virtualization panel last week at Light Reading's NFV & Carrier SDN event in Denver.
Indeed, there are many issues still to be uncovered with regard to virtualization -- many related to management and orchestration -- and as those issues are uncovered, service providers are going to get their hands dirty and that will slow their progress, said Roz Roseboro, senior analyst at Heavy Reading. "As much as they have ambitions to do things in a certain time frame, the more they get into it, the more they realize there is more work to be done."
Part of the problem is that the amount of work that needs to be done is so new and different than anything that's been done in the past, plus it's spread across different areas which each have their own challenges. This has made things difficult for industry groups and service providers to converge their efforts, according to panelist Margaret Chiosi, network architect, formerly of AT&T.
"I don't think the industry has enough experience to know where we can converge. What's happening is disconcerting though because there is a lot of churn and complaining about supporting all the conversion. That's the reality of any industry that goes through any major change," she said. "You can't cross that chasm without going maybe a little bit in the chasm and hopefully you survive at the end of it."
Another part of the problem is the loss of focus around the end goal of network transformation. Moving to a virtualized network piece by piece or on a case-by-case basis seems to be the modus operandi at this point, but overall, Doug Tait, director of product marketing at Oracle Corp. (Nasdaq: ORCL), said he didn't agree that it was the main goal.
"Going back to the original while paper, it pulled on the roots of IT and that's where we saw virtualization become a real key player…but NFV and SDN is a fundamental method or technology to get us there and probably the most cost-effective way of getting us there," he said. "With best intentions of where we want to go, we may not end up hitting that one place, but perhaps it will have good benefits and side effects along the way."
The abundance of choice at this stage in the NFV game is also a major hindrance, especially because it's so early in the game. Many operators are fearful of "squashing anything that they can grow and learn from," said Roseboro.
Tait said this is also a challenge for vendors. "There are so many choices and we are pulled in all different directions," he said. "One of the benefits we'll see this year is the models that are coming in -- especially from the Tier 1s -- are a little more business focused, a little more, 'How can we make the customer happy?', a little more, 'How can we make money?,' and that helps."
Integration and industry agreement can solve some of these challenges, but it's been difficult to achieve, said Chiosi. "What happened is that because you have different people coming in with different backgrounds and different companies and different countries -- so now you have all these different factions," she said. "The problem is you don't have a mind meld of the industry as one organization."
— Elizabeth Miller Coyne, Managing Editor, Light Reading