AlcaLu's NFV Boss: Operations Is Key R&D Focus
Alcatel-Lucent has already completed more than 100 NFV proofs-of-concept, but its aim now is to translate those PoCs to a couple of dozen commercial rollouts. As such, the company's NFV boss says its research and development work is all about operations.
"[R&D work] is in the operations," Bhaskar Gorti, Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU)'s president of IP platforms, told Light Reading without hesitation at a recent on-site visit. "Getting a network function to run in a virtualized network is fine, but the reality is that there will be a hybrid world of virtual and physical networks. How do you operate it?"
This is where Alcatel-Lucent is spending its time and money in the final months leading up to its acquisition by Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK). In fact, its Naperville, Ill., offices are full of Lean Ops demos that show evidence of this R&D work. Here, the vendor demonstrates agile, New IP networks that can spin up -- or down -- services on the fly, taking network management down to a matter of minutes. (See Pics: Alcatel-Lucent Field Trip.)
Gorti says that amongst Alcatel-Lucent's customer base of network operators of all sizes, he sees the larger ones seeking a horizontal virtual approach to building NFV infrastructure and orchestration that is independent of VNFs, and smaller players running out of physical capacity and looking to add virtual network elements rather than completely overhaul their networks. Either way, he said, every request for proposal (RFP) now has virtualization on it, whether they deploy it or not. (See Major Change Afoot in Managing Virtualization.)
"It is there today; there is a roadmap, and they want to see future versions and how they will live in a hybrid world," Gorti says. "Operations is key."
When asked about the short-term revenue opportunities for VNFs, Gorti rattled off IMS, policy and Diameter as the definite first VNFs, but said it tapers off from there. He's also having a lot more conversations about virtual CPEs. However, that's not where Alcatel-Lucent sees the dollar signs. (See AlcaLu Launches Cloud Platform for Virtualized IMS.)
"There won't be that big of a business case in moving from physical to virtual," Gorti said. "There is not a dramatic capex change right away. It's how do you scale it and run it? We come back to operations."
How do you create many small pods in the network, so that if one pod dies an operator's customers aren't affected? What if a couple of thousand pods are lost -- how do you make it so that by the time a customer realizes what has happened, they are back up? How do you take out a burnt element and get a new one in?
These are the operational questions that keep Gorti up at night and are where Alcatel-Lucent is working furiously behind the scenes to have answers. (See Gorti to Pull the NFV Strings at Alcatel-Lucent.)
Gorti only came on board at Alcatel-Lucent as president of IP platforms in January, but he's now destined for a new role -- that of president of Nokia's new application and analytics division. In this role, he will run Nokia's new software business, which combines assets from the two companies. It's a position that also includes overseeing the entire company's NFV strategy, although Gorti differentiates between NFV infrastructure and individual network functions. He will have responsibility for the former. (See AlcaLu Execs Lose Out as Nokia Unveils New Top Team and AlcaLu Hires Oracle Big Hitter.)
The NFV man expressed optimism about the acquisition, which is set to close in the first quarter of next year. The two companies are highly complementary in terms of customer footprint and technology, he said, noting that three out of four of Alcatel-Lucent's business lines have no overlap with Nokia, and the one that does -- wireless -- benefits from the scale the combined company will bring it. (See How Do Nokia & Alcatel-Lucent Stack Up?)
Nokia recently announced its executive team, operating model and business structure, and Gorti said it's due to announce the next layer of appointments by mid-December. He expects most of the organization to be announced by the time the deal is closed, helping to eliminate any chaos that might ensue. (See AlcaLu Execs Lose Out as Nokia Unveils New Top Team and AlcaLu's Weldon Lands Nokia CTO Role.)
"Alcatel-Lucent has gone through its own fair share [of challenges] as has Nokia with outside companies," Gorti said. "We know what mistakes not to make. We may make new ones, but it will be more focused on growth and innovation with much bigger scale."
— Sarah Thomas, , Editorial Operations Director, Light Reading