It's been six weeks since I announced the first four participants in Light Reading’s NFV interoperability evaluation. (See NFV Evaluation: Cisco, Juniper & Others Are On Board and NFV Gets Real – Finally .)
Since then, the number of vendors that have signed up has tripled and now includes all four of the leading IP manufacturers in the world by market share: Cisco Systems, Juniper Networks, Alcatel-Lucent and Huawei Technologies.
That's a huge deal.
The full list of vendors taking in part in the evaluation is as follows:
(Note: * denotes commitment to participate in 2016.)
In addition, more than a dozen of the world’s leading service providers -- including BT Group, Colt Technology Services, Deutsche Telekom and XO Communications -- have come out in support for both the NFV interoperability testing and the New IP Agency, the body that will continue the interoperability mission in 2016 on a 501[c] not-for-profit basis.
Here's what Axel Clauberg, Vice President of Aggregation, Transport, IP, and Fixed Access Architecture at Deutsche Telekom, had to say about both:
- The Cloudification of Network Functions and the change in our production models is probably the biggest transformation ever hitting the Telco industry. In a world built on Open Standards and Open Source, testing and integration remains a major effort. An independent entity like NIA driving this can deliver huge value to us as network operators and our vendors.
I'm happy, but not surprised, to see this level of industry support. As I reported last month, research by Light Reading and Heavy Reading indicates that more than half of service providers view interoperability as the No. 1 hurdle standing between them and deployment of network virtualization on production networks.
Vendors and service providers alike know that the only way to overcome this trepidation is through truly open and independent testing of the type that we are running right now (work on the first evaluations started at the Berlin lab of the European Advanced Networking Test Center AG -- EANTC -- last week).
Or, as another virtualization statesman, Basil Alwan, President of IP Routing & Transport at Alcatel-Lucent, puts it:
The NIA's efforts to provide a baseline for interoperability between VNFs and NFVIs are a critical first step that will pave the way for more advanced testing around performance, security and overall operational readiness.
The New Cold War
Of course, not everyone is on board (yet). Behind the scenes, there is some serious horse-trading going on amongst those in our industry that are looking to control virtualization standards to help promote their own agendas.
My Light Reading colleague Ray Le Maistre, Editor in Chief of Light Reading, describes this as the new "Cold War of communications," a description so eloquent that I can't really improve on it. (See NFV & the Cold War of Communications.)
The last time we saw this type of politicking was during the LAN standards wars of the 1990s, when vendors bickered endlessly over the merits of FDDI versus Ethernet versus Fibre Channel vs ATM. The problem is that this time out, and unlike the 1990s, there is far more at stake here than the market share/share price of a handful of companies competing to sell the high-speed networks to connect office equipment.
Like others in our industry, including Ericsson CEO Hans Vestberg and Adtran's Tom Stanton, I believe that the advent of next-gen communications (including white box, open source, virtualized New IP networks, 5G mobile, drones and ultra-broadband access technologies) will enable a new, worldwide digital economy, one that has the power to improve the situation of every person on the planet, regardless of station or location.
At some point, when our industry is done with its work, people will look back and say 'there was life before virtualization, and then there was life after virtualization.' And in this virtualized "new world" it won't matter if you work in Reykjavik, or Sydney, or Kigali; you will be able to communicate, and compete, and innovate, and participate as an economic equal, peer-to-peer, with the entire population of the world.
[Pauses, sips cup o' tea, stares into space]
It's worth pausing to think about the ramifications of that mission…
Mind-blowing stuff, right? As an industry, we are enabling a pivot, or inflection point, in the history of the world.
So the risk presented by the machinations going on now behind the scenes over which standards should be adopted, or which vendors should be allowed to dictate how those standards are written, is that we delay the advent of this new world order by several years. And that delay actually matters to the citizens of the world who stand gain from the coming comms revolution.
When it comes to virtualization I'm determined that Light Reading will land on the right side of history. In fact, it's very hard for me to understand how anyone could argue against what we are doing: the NIA is designed to support the work of existing standards bodies, not compete with them (developing standards is the one thing NIA won't do). And, to me, the benefits of working together as a team, or crowd, to assuage the concerns of service providers and accelerate the deployment of next-generation networks to the entire population of the planet clearly outweigh short-term commercial self-interests.
So it's my hope that, eventually, the whole industry will support the NIA's work on interoperability, and I suspect that pressure from their service provider customers will eventually overcome the hesitation on the part of those vendors not yet involved in our interoperability efforts.
After all, and to paraphrase a book I once read: "If the service provider customers are on our side, who can be on theirs?"
— Stephen Saunders, Founder and CEO, Light Reading