CHICAGO -- Light Reading's Big Telecom Event -- Though network functions virtualization is "critically important" in the near future, it will become "kind of irrelevant" in the long term, because it's hardware focused, said Dan Pitt, executive director of the Open Networking Foundation.
"I will tell you frankly that I think [NFV] is a great short-term benefit but of diminishing long-term benefit, because really what it does is virtualize hardware-defined networking," Pitt said at a keynote here. NFV lacks focus on OSS and other network operations separate from hardware and the functions driving it.
"In the long-term future, NFV will become kind of irrelevant, because it will all just become programming modules," he said. "But in the short term, it's critically important and of great benefit, so we are working closely with the ETSI NFV working group." The two organizations signed a memo of understanding to collaborate this year. (See ETSI & ONF Hold Hands Over SDN & NFV.)
"We're really happy to partner with them," Pitt said, as though he were aware that his statements would make things awkward at the next joint ONF/ETSI volleyball game.
SDN is leading the transition making software strategic to service providers' business value, Pitt said.
"Software will define your future," he told carriers. "The operators that will most succeed will be the ones that learn to own software and its processes. They'll learn to create it as well as procure it. They will understand that telecom is becoming IT."
Carriers' competitors aren't other slow-moving telcos, but companies like Facebook , Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN), and Google (Nasdaq: GOOG). "I would mock these at my peril if I were a network operator."
Some carriers are already moving toward software-defined networks. OpenFlow SDN deployments in place today include:
- A pan-Pacific network-as-a-service implementation in east Asia, provided by an undersea cable and data center company
- A north Asia global carrier providing cloud services with customer self-provisioning for global enterprises
- A south Asia-Pacific Internet exchange that's overlaying new technologies on old networks for BGP augmentation, available with quality-of-service controls and application prioritization
- A studio caching and distributing entertainment video over WANs in North America
The ONF's membership and innovation are growing fastest in Asia than in North America or Europe. This derives not just from telecom providers, but also from rapidly growing Internet services such as Alibaba and Tencent, Pitt said.
The ONF launched in 2011. "Our mission is to accelerate the option of open SDN. So we do standards, but they're just a means to an end. Our success measure is the commercial success of SDN for the benefit of network operators." The organization is a not-for-profit that runs like a Silicon Valley startup. It has five employees -- two full-time and three part-time.
Board members include Google, Facebook, Deutsche Telekom, Verizon, Microsoft, and Goldman Sachs -- data center operators, network operators, and a large enterprise, he said.
It doesn't have a single definition of SDN, and it supports many interpretations. "Essential to it is the physical separate of forwarding and control, otherwise you can't really centralize the control you have applied to your network and have a consistent program interface to it." Simplifying interfaces provides an application independent infrastructure. "Ultimately, the value of the networks is created by network operators through software they own, procure, and control."
Want to learn more about SDN and the transport network? Check out the agenda for Light Reading's Big Telecom Event (BTE), which continues today at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers. The event combines the educational power of interactive conference sessions devised and hosted by Heavy Reading's experienced industry analysts with multi-vendor interoperability and proof-of-concept networking and application showcases. 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.