SAN JOSE, Calif. -- NFV World Congress -- New services such as 5G and machine-to-machine communications, which have more relaxed quality-of-service requirements, will be the first beneficiaries of NFV, service provider executives said here at NFV World Congress.
"I often feel the real revolution will arrive with 5G [which will be] absolutely based on network virtualization," said Luigi Licciardi, VP and head, technology plan and standards, Telecom Italia (TIM) . Licciardi, who is also a director for Open Platform for NFV Project Inc. (OPNFV), spoke on a panel about industry pain points for deploying NFV. (See CEO Chat With Simone Battiferri, Telecom Italia.)
M2M communications will be another emerging service suitable for NFV, said Bryan Sullivan, director of service standards, AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and a Technical Steering Committee (TSC) member for OPNFV. "You'll probably see a virtual environment used to spin up these new services before the legacy will be implemented," Sullivan said. (See SDN Powers AT&T's Rapid On-Demand Expansion.)
Similarly, Chris Donley, director, virtualization and network evolution for CableLabs and director of OPNFV, named virtual CPE as a good first project for NFV. (See Virtual CPE: An Early Mover for Virtual Networks.)
These services don't require traditional levels of quality-of-service, Licciardi said.
Maintaining carrier grade quality, interoperability, and reliability is "one of the most difficult challenges," Licciardi said. "This is important because we have to maintain the service to our customers."
Rapid release velocity helps improve quality of software more rapidly, Donley said.
CableLabs is implementing a DevOps model in its organizational teams, building teams virtually rather than top-down, Donley said. The organization is using DevOps to break Conway's Law, which suggests that the structure of systems designed by any organization will reflect the communications structure of that organization. Instead, cross-functional teams are needed to speed development and counter Conway's Law. (See CableLabs' Clarke Updates Cable Virtualization.)
The OPNFV open source NFV platform will need time to ripen before it's ready for production. CableLabs will likely start working with OPNFV in the second release: The first release is due this spring. (See OPNFV Release Taking Longer Than Planned}.)
Telecom Italia will use the first couple of OPNFV releases in its lab, mostly as a collaboration development tool, Licciardi said.
MANO (Management and Orchestration) will be tough for OPNFV to crack, Sullivan said. That technology is often specific to the organization and home-grown, with development moving slower than the network. End-to-end support for OPNFV will take time.
The executives agreed that systems integrators will play a role in implementing NFV for many organizations, but panelists disagreed on the long-term future.
Operators will work with systems integrators at first, Licciardi said. "But it's very important that we acquire the ability to manage customization ourselves," he said. The network operator needs to acquire the capacity of integrating and managing software.
Sullivan said systems integrators can have a long-term future if they add value.
And Donley said the long-term role of systems integrator will be different at different providers. Some providers will bring the expertise in-house. Others will focus on other capabilities and rely on partners for NFV. (See NFV's Looming Battle: Systems Integration.)
Donley closed with an analogy to the electrification of factories a century ago or more. Pre-electrification, factory machinery was powered by horse-drawn spindles -- machinery requiring more power was located closer to the spindle. The first wave of electrification simply replaced the horse with an electric motor, and productivity improved a little.
Real gains emerged 10-15 years later, when factories put electric motors on every machine and changed their business processes to take advantage of the new technology. Then, productivity took off.
The transition to NFV will be similar, Donley said. Organizations that do things the same way as before will see only limited benefit. Real change will come when the business changes to take advantage of the technology.