AUSTIN, Texas -- Big Communications Event -- Vodafone is making significant progress towards the implementation of its Ocean virtualization strategy but is still encountering some significant challenges as it works with the vendor community on its plans.
That was one of the key messages from the Vodafone's head of SDN and NFV, David Amzallag, during his keynote presentation at the Big Communications Event (BCE) here this week.
Amzallag noted previously that Ocean is now the priority strategy for Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD) and that significant resources are being allocated to the transformation program. (See BCE 2016: Vodafone to Make Waves With Its 'Ocean' Virtualization Strategy.)
Progress is being made in terms of the way Vodafone works internally -- the operations, engineering and technology teams within Vodafone now have to work in tandem -- and also in terms of vendor relationships. The company has already undertaken a multivendor proof of concept (PoC) for its planned new enterprise service called VPN+, which was demonstrated at this year's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, but there is plenty of work to be done to get supplier relationships to the required level.
"There are two main difficulties [in which] we are still investing a lot of effort but have not yet finalized the approach or standpoint," noted Amzallag.
The first is "the new pricing model -- how we are going to negotiate with vendors and how we are going to be charged for orchestration software or SDN controllers. The industry is absolutely not consolidated here and that's an understatement," stated the Vodafone man, who has been shocked at the range of different models being proposed by different suppliers.
The second is "an open issue for the industry is the way that VNFs are being expected to be onboarded," noted the Vodafone man. "We have seen in a lot of cases that vendors are thinking in terms of boxes when they are allocating virtualized resources. This creates a misalignment in the amount of resources needed. So, onboarding is one of the main topics in this journey and as part of our activities we will sharing a set of expectations, some guidance, with the vendors around pricing models and onboarding."
Amzallag is looking to resolve such issues quickly as he is moving ahead with the early stages of the Ocean strategy, starting with plans to launch a new, centralized cloud-based platform for the entire portfolio of messaging applications this July that will work across the whole Vodafone Group. "Centralization and cloudification are key elements in our strategy," he noted.
After that he is planning what he calls a "Mega PoC" for a complex virtual network function (VNF), working together with teams from across the Vodafone group (operations, engineering, technology, security, integration, local and centralized staff) who will all need to become skilled at how to run centralized processes.
After that, Vodafone will work towards the introduction of VPN+ as a commercial service across Vodafone's international empire, which comprises 60 separate operators. The idea is to replace during the next few years the current portfolio of VPN products with a single VPN product that can be used across the group: Amzallag says VPN+ will be introduced as a commercial product in the first markets before the end of the current financial year (ending March 2017).
Which vendors will be used for that? The ones involved in the earlier VPN+ demonstration -- ADVA/Overture, Aria Networks, Amdocs, Juniper Networks, Red Hat and Fortinet -- look to have an advantage but Amzallag isn't giving anything away. "We are now selecting the right vendors for the commercial deployment -- it may be these vendors [from the earlier VPN+ PoC] but it may be others," he noted.
— Ray Le Maistre, , Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading