NFV Strategies

NFV Force Awakens & Gets Realistic – Survey

Service providers are making "notable" progress in virtualizing their high-priority network functions, both in the development and the deployment stage, according to the most recent Heavy Reading Future of Virtualization report, dubbed "The Force (Finally) Awakens."

As they dig into the work, however, the survey shows many are realizing it will take longer to identify and deploy network functions than they anticipated, and most aren't expecting any decrease in capex as a result -- for a few more years at least.

This twice-yearly Heavy Reading survey of an invited audience of 40 global communications service providers (CSPs) tracks changes in both what service providers are doing and how they are thinking about the virtualization process. In April of this year, that CSP group reported greater confidence in meeting timetables for testing and deploying high-priority network functions. You can see the executive summary here.

But they also admitted their timelines for both identifying all the functions that need to be virtualized and getting all identified functions into production are slipping. On the latter front, 30% of CSPs are saying it will be 2023 or later before completion, and 38% say their entire virtualization project would be complete by 2020, down from 45% in last November's survey.

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The survey work, conducted by Heavy Reading Senior Analyst Roz Roseboro, looks at planning, deployment and spending around NFV and creates an index in each of the three areas. Because Heavy Reading conducts the survey twice a year, it tracks even small changes in carrier attitudes and plans.

For example, in the planning arena, the report notes "the percentage of CSPs that have identified all of the functions they plan to virtualize by 2020 grew from 11% in November 2016 to 15% in April 2017." It also recognized, however, that while 27% of CSPs thought they were going to complete that function identification process last year, only 11% actually did.

On the spending front, virtualization is claiming an increasing portion of capex budgets, although the bar for measuring that (10% or higher) is fairly low. In April, 58% said their virtualization capex spend hit that mark, up from 41% in November 2016. Perhaps more significantly, 38% said their capex budgets would be notably higher this year and no one expected to spend less. In fact, most (64%) "continued to believe that their capex will not level off or begin to decline until 2020 or later."

There is greater optimism on the opex savings front, with 25% of the 40 CSPs surveyed saying they "expect to see reductions in the next two years, up from 14% who said the same in November 2016," the report states.

— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading

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