The head of Verizon's product development business in Europe has publicly leaned on vendors to make some radical improvements to their virtualization offerings.
Addressing an audience of industry executives at this week's SDN NFV World Congress in The Hague, Peter Konings said there needs to be more vendor progress on standardization and that Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) cannot deliver "exactly what customers need" unless suppliers embrace the whole concept of microservices.
With a microservice, a network function would be decomposed into smaller components that operators could use in a more flexible way to create customized and scalable applications.
"Microservices are absolutely important," said Konings. "Today when we are delivering a Riverbed or Palo Alto [Networks] service, we are providing a full-blown software package to customers. It is like selling a car with all of its options in only one version. We need more flexibility. We need to move to microservices so we can deliver exactly what customers need."
While some of the world's biggest operators have urged vendors to adapt to a microservices model, that move could deal a blow to existing investments and business models for some of the world's biggest vendors, according to analysts.
Industry groups are now looking at helping vendors to develop alternative business models as their old ones come under threat from new technologies.
Announced at this week's show, a new "zero-touch" group, led by Germany's Deutsche Telekom, would aim to spur collaboration between operators, vendors and end users and come up with new use cases for automation technology. (See Martiny Cocktail? DT Exec Eyes ONAP & Zero-Touch Merger.)
Although it has yet to receive the official go-ahead from ETSI, its mission could extend to assisting vendors with the evolution of their business models, says Klaus Martiny, a senior program manager with Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT) who is mainly responsible for the initiative. (See Automation Gets Its Own ETSI Group.)
But Konings also expressed some frustration with standardization efforts so far, suggesting that the process of onboarding virtual network functions (VNFs) was still not straightforward enough.
"We have taken tremendous steps forward with Ericsson in onboarding VNFs but we believe it can become even easier," he told conference attendees. "We need you all as VNF providers to work with us and with standardization bodies to create a standard VNF package so that it becomes easier to onboard VNF solutions."
On the orchestration front, vendors need to get a lot better at service chaining, whereby network services are linked to support particular applications, said Konings. "The fact that we need to go through detailed lab tests time and time again is not sustainable in this ecosystem environment," he explained.
Vendors also need to bear in mind that Verizon is operating in a hybrid environment at scale, Konings told his audience. "Virtualization needs to account for cloud-native needs," he said. "When you develop software solutions, you need to take into account that we will deploy them at scale in a hybrid environment -- that we will deploy them on premises, on white boxes, in the cloud."
Despite his various gripes, Konings cited evidence of good progress within Verizon on the rollout of software-based and virtualization technologies.
Along with US rival AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), the operator has emerged as one of the pioneers in the SDN and NFV market and has recently been collaborating with a host of vendors on SD-WAN and white box technologies, including ADVA, Advantech, Cisco, Dell and Viptela.
"We've given customers a true choice of open hardware, open software and open network solutions," said Konings. "A key premise is that this needs to be network independent."
— Iain Morris, News Editor, Light Reading