The sun shone brightly on Nice for almost the entire week of TM Forum Live! and the Cote d'Azur was at its sparkling best. The event itself had something of a split personality: Many of its conference sessions were packed and the TM Forum's Catalysts drew considerable attention. But, with a few notable exceptions, the exhibit floor seemed rather lifeless, as delegates were mostly engaged elsewhere.
Virtualization dominated my week in Nice, as I bounced from one session to another in the Virtualizing Everything track, so if there was major excitement generated elsewhere, I missed it. Here, from that rather lop-sided perspective, are my key take-aways, one for each of the five days of French sunshine:
- Virtualization is giving the TM Forum , in specific, and the network management segment, in general, new focus and energy: Telecom network operators are realizing how critical orchestration is going to be to the success of NFV, and how critical NFV and SDN are to their survival. That is making orchestration a C-level discussion. Even while there is, as Forum VP-Strategy Nik Willetts admitted, a fair amount of "NFV-washing" going on, there is also considerable serious work under way, and much left to do. Other initiatives such as business transformation and digital services platforms have not generated the same urgency in recent years. (See NFV Dominates in Nice and How NFV Can Power the Digital Marketplace.)
- Large telecom operators aren't as wary of sharing information as they have been in the past. Several equipment vendor execs noted this trend, some on the record such as Ulf Ewaldsson, CTO of Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), and others not for attribution. (Maybe they think the trend is too fragile to discuss?) Getting service providers to talk about what they are doing and with whom has been difficult for some time as even basic information is regarded as strategic and not for dissemination to potential competitors. The greater threat from outside the telecom sector seems to be changing that. Certainly the operator-driven ETSI NFV Industry Specifications Group is the centerpiece of that effort. (See NFV Not a Panacea, Carrier Execs Admit and Telcos Pay Lip Service to Open Source.)
- Open source software is going to play a role in the early going of NFV deployment at the very least. Beyond that, its role is less certain. The ability to use open source resources such as OpenStack, or the open source hypervisor developed by the Open Daylight project lets service providers start testing things out right now. Some vendors are embracing use of open source within their early SDN/NFV deployments, although they are likely wrapping these tightly in their own intellectual property. As multiple people noted, "pure" open source likely won't fly in the telecom realm, which is why it's hard to say exactly what the final impact of open source will be. Assuming it has no impact would also be a mistake because… (See Can ZOOM See Daylight? and Ericsson Unveils Carrier-Grade Server Strategy .)
- Service providers are champing at the bit to get going on NFV deployment. They realize this is going to be a step-by-step process -- I heard this phrase repeatedly -- and the sooner they take first steps, the better. There is a willingness to try things to see if they fly and to -- cliché alert -- fail fast. That will ultimately be the beauty of virtualization -- that it will allow faster introduction and expiration of services, so carriers can try things and yank them if they don't work. That's unheard of in today's long planning and deployment cycles. Even in advance of full deployment, many operators want to push ahead -- open source software will play a role in facilitating those efforts. (See No Need to Rush Into Virtualization – Orange .)
- There is more uncertainty than certainty where NFV and SDN are concerned. It's not hard to get contradictory statements from people who generally agree with each other because there is still so much to be worked out here. Some of the impatience referenced above stems from the feeling that it will be impossible to work out the important issues in meetings, lab tests and proofs of concept. There is a sense -- unusual in telecom -- that it is not only okay to stomp your foot down on the accelerator when the road ahead isn't certain, but that it's likely aggressive speed is somehow required. Whether this sense of urgency leads to some early deployment failures and whether that would provoke a return to caution are just two of the many unknowns ahead. (See Liability Issues Increase in Virtual World.)
— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading
Want to learn more about network operators' approach to NFV? There is still time to join us next week at Light Reading's Big Telecom Event (BTE), which will take place on June 17 and 18 at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers. Multiple sessions, led by Heavy Reading analysts, will tackle the practical issues around virtualization and there will be demos that include proofs of concept for NFV. Come in a day early on June 16th and you can attend an afternoon workshop lead by the Open Networking Foundation that will update standards development for SDN and NFV. For more on the event, the topics, and the stellar service provider speaker lineup, see Telecommunication Luminaries to Discuss the Hottest Industry Trends at Light Reading's Big Telecom Event in June.