2015 is shaping up to be the year when network operations teams start to get their teeth into network functions virtualization (NFV). A handful of leading operators are beginning to roll NFV use cases out of the lab and into their production networks, but these are typically standalone deployments, chosen for their limited impact on existing OSS systems and operational processes.
If operators are to implement NFV more widely across their networks -- and early adopters plan to virtualize large chunks of their infrastructure by 2017/2018 -- they can't merely nibble around the edges of OSS. They need a comprehensive plan for managing a substantially virtualized network and a strategy for incorporating NFV management and orchestration (MANO) into their day-to-day operations.
The big challenge here is how to integrate the existing OSS with the new layers of orchestration in NFV MANO. Both OSS and MANO will be needed -- and not just because the network will be a hybrid mix of physical network elements and virtualized network functions (VNFs) for the foreseeable future. The requirement to support customer-facing services composed of both physical and virtual resources is an important driver for OSS/MANO integration, but the need for OSS functionality such as VNF configuration and the assurance of VNF-based services isn't supplanted by the MANO stack's arrival.
On the other hand, a cloud-based execution environment for network functions does change the nature of network operations. It introduces new operational challenges, but also opportunities to do things differently. In the past six months, Heavy Reading has noted a sea change in operator attitudes, as they have come to accept that OSS needs to transform to accommodate NFV, and that current systems and management practices won't translate to a network in the process of being virtualized.
The TM Forum and its OSS vendor members have been somewhat late to the NFV party, but they are now making up for lost time and are keen for their voices to be heard in the debate. The NFV MANO stack was specified without reference to the OSS community, and it shows. It's time for operations teams to step up and own the problem of managing virtualized segments of their network. They have expertise and experience that they can bring to bear on the challenges, but it's important to remain open to new management approaches, technologies and standards, so that they come up with an optimal way of managing the network, regardless of its physical or virtual composition.
I'll be discussing these operational challenges and opportunities with Justin Paul, head of OSS marketing at Amdocs, in two "fireside chats" at Mobile World Congress -- although with luck, Barcelona will prove sufficiently warm and sunny that we won't need the fire. Please join us as we debate whether having an OSS heritage is an asset when it comes to operationalizing NFV, how long NFV will take to achieve and whether operators can afford to take their time, and the value of an NFV proof-of-concept-led migration path in understanding and addressing NFV MANO issues.
For an overview of this session or to register, please visit: www.amdocs.com/OSSMWCsocial.
— Caroline Chappell, Principal Analyst, Cloud & NFV, Heavy Reading
This blog is sponsored by Amdocs.