Here's a quick snapshot of my impressions from this week's NFV-Carrier SDN: Automation and Monetization event in Denver:
No one thinks NFV has lived up to its original promise yet but most network operator speakers weren't whining about that so much as they were stating facts. And most also had a clear vision of what needs to happen next and seemed willing to buckle down to get it done.
The complaints were familiar. First-generation virtual network functions were just software-based versions of what vendors once sold as appliances, dumped on virtual machines. Making virtual stuff work with legacy OSSs-BSSs is really hard. Open source is great but there are too many groups to track. And of course: internal culture change is probably the biggest obstacle.
Common information models are a point of contention. Some folks think they are necessary, even to move open source along. But others say that pushing for standards like CMIs just slows things down and that open Application Programming Interfaces can work to mask the lack of agreement on information models.
There is much wider acceptance of open source now among carriers, even as they admit that working with open source groups requires them to change their own internal doings and pay for things differently. Stay tuned for more to come on this topic from one particularly interesting panel.
There was surprisingly little discussion of SD-WANs. Two years ago, software-defined wide area networking dominated this event but it was barely mentioned here this week. One reason was that it wasn't featured heavily on the agenda -- Light Reading event content is driven by our talented Heavy Reading analysts, and they found other topics preferable. But for a show based on automation and monetization, it's surprising that more network operators didn't talk about SD-WANs and what they are doing. I'm still undecided on what that means.
My favorite quotes/moments:
CableLabs' Randy Levensalor, speaking on the open source panel about how carriers need to invest differently to get what they need from the open source community: "Open source runs on beer."
Masergy's Ray Watson, speaking on a first-day keynote panel, on monetizing NFV at the edge: "We were told that it would make sense to deploy commercial off-the-shelf hardware and software with one VNF on it and it would make money. The harsh reality is that is not the case. The VNF vendors and the hardware vendors have not made it easy for us to realize that potential. I am scolding some people in this room but I'm not naming you by name... This is real simple, I am in the fifth year of commercial availability. You have to have 2.2 VNFs to break even, we were promised it would be one. That's only off by, oh, double. If you can't deploy 2.2 VNFs, it's not even worth sending the equipment out at all."
And finally, my colleague Kelsey Ziser, in our "event wrap-up video," says the best wine pairing for Kubernetes is rosé because "everyone thinks it's cool but no one's really drinking it."
Many larger network operators are bringing software development in-house, developing their own orchestrators and other tools, and using more open source to get the results they want, without vendor dependence.