NIA Replacing 'Old Standards Bodies,' Says Cisco

AUSTIN, Texas -- Big Communications Event -- Organizations such as The New IP Agency (NIA) are taking over from "old standards bodies" in the era of SDN and NFV and will prove critical to the success of those technologies, according to one of Cisco's senior NFV executives.

Vijay Venugopal, a Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) director of product management for NFVi, gave a huge endorsement of the work being done by the The New IP Agency during a busy breakout session at this week's Big Communications Event in Austin, Texas.

"We're into the third round of interoperability testing and that real-world experience of getting engineers to work together has been phenomenal," he told conference attendees. "If there is a call to action it is for the vendor and operator community to participate in the NIA -- these [groups] are replacing the old standards bodies."

Launched as a not-for-profit initiative earlier this year, the NIA's mission is to foster the development of virtualized IP networks based on open access principles. (See Colt Says NIA Can Help Speed Up NFV Rollout.)

Working in partnership with the EANTC, the organization has been conducting interoperability testing on vendor equipment and is showcasing its efforts at BCE this week.

Venugopal's remarks instantly met with a cry of "hear, hear" from Prayson Pate, the chief technology officer for ADVA Optical Networking 's Ensemble division, who similarly urged other players to back the NIA initiative.

"I want everyone to get involved in this so that we can get benchmarks and agreements to get VNFs and NFVi to work together," he said.

The need for more interoperability testing is becoming increasingly apparent as operators weigh the merits of a "best-of-breed" NFV deployment versus an entirely "integrated" approach.

A best-of-breed rollout would allow a service provider to "mix and match" NFV products from a variety of different vendors. With an integrated approach, the operator would take everything from a single vendor.

Eager to avoid being locked into a single source of supply, most operators want the freedom to work with a number of vendors and to replace products as they see fit. Yet interoperability concerns have prompted some players to hold back or turn to single-vendor solutions.

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Last year, Spain's Telefónica dropped Hewlett Packard Enterprise as the lead technology provider for its virtualization project due to concern that HPE would not be able to deliver the multivendor, open architecture it had promised, according to industry sources. (See Telefónica Ditches HPE as Virtualization Lead.)

US telecom giant Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), meanwhile, appears undecided on how it should proceed. "We are interested in the benefits of disaggregation and want best of breed, but you have the flip side of getting reliability and some kind of service assurance," said Bryan Larish, a distinguished member of technical staff for Verizon's SDN/NFV architecture planning division.

Cisco's Venugopal highlighted some of the other concerns surrounding multivendor deployments. "When the customer reports an outage, how do you start to figure out where things are going wrong?" he said. "The VNF vendor will say it's an OpenStack problem, the OpenStack vendor will blame it on computing hardware and so on."

Venugopal also believes that smaller operators are being driven towards single-vendor solutions because they cannot afford to pay for the systems integrators needed on best-of-breed projects.

ADVA's Pate, however, urged the industry not to back away from best-of-breed deployments. "The only way to solve problems is by rolling this out," he said. "You can go far with best of breed but if you don't make commitments you won't ever solve those problems."

— Iain Morris, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, News Editor, Light Reading

clarkede 5/25/2016 | 10:09:40 PM
Standards are the Pre-requisite for Interoperability Interoperability requires specifications (i.e. standards) against which interop testing can be validated, so this is a very puzzling headline. Moreover, Cisco has been a strong contributor to telecommunications standards for decades including the ETSI NFV Industry Specification Group where they are a founding member and drove the specification work on Terminology. They and other vendors of similar standing continue to contribute to the international effort to specify NFV systems to the required level of clarity to achieve interoperability. I truly hope this statement does not pre-sage Cisco withdrawing from the collaborative industry effort to create interoperable standards for NFV.
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