A senior executive from Orange says vendor hype has made it much harder for him to sell SDN and NFV to his bosses.

Iain Morris, International Editor

October 13, 2015

4 Min Read
Stop "Overselling" SDN, Orange Tells Vendors

DUSSELDORF -- SDN Openflow World Congress -- France's Orange is accusing vendors of undermining the business case for SDN and NFV by "overselling" the technologies and fueling unrealistic expectations at Board level.

Vendors of the NewIP technologies have been making some bold claims about the cost savings and service-related benefits operators can realize from investing in network functions virtualization (NFV) and software-defined networking (SDN).

Although Orange (NYSE: FTE) remains as interested in taking advantage of these technologies as other service providers, it lashed out at the vendor community during this week's SDN Openflow World Congress in Dusseldorf for hyping the business case.

"Overselling SDN and NFV is counterproductive," said Noël Foret, Orange's vice president of network control, during a keynote session on Tuesday morning. "It may lead to a cut in investment as a consequence of overestimated savings, and it may generate disappointment and frustration."

Foret hinted that some of his recent conversations at the board level have been less than comfortable because financial executives have been led to believe SDN and NFV can generate much bigger cost savings than are feasible.

The French operator has been changing its approach to the deployment of SDN and NFV to identify more realistic "business drivers" for the move.

"The original message from some vendors about cost savings was a very fine story but it is not really what we see today," explained Foret.

The update from the Orange executive will be a troubling one for many SDN and NFV suppliers, which are desperate to see their products gain traction in the market.

But Foret is not the only service provider with reservations about the sales patter from SDN and NFV vendors.

"I see a lot of sales pitches out there about how you can stop using this kind of connectivity and start using this one and I can tell those vendors haven't actually sold anything because that's not the use case," said Shawn Hakl, vice president of enterprise networking and innovation at Verizon Enterprise Solutions , during a separate keynote.

"You can't turn a zebra into a horse with this technology -- underlying connectivity still matters," added Hakl. "What it does mean is that instead of linking performance and cost to the site type you can link those choices at the application layer, and that's what matters in terms of the trade-offs."

Orange's Foret also complained about the proliferation of "clubs" in the SDN and NFV industry, expressing concern about the risk of fragmentation with so many standards bodies now active in the market.

"It's good that clubs exist but we need to find a place where they can come with their activities to reach convergence," he said.

Want to know more about the emerging SDN market? Check out our dedicated SDN content channel here on Light Reading.

Orange and Verizon are among a number of service providers gathered at this week's Dusseldorf event that have taken some early steps in deploying SDN- and NFV-based services.

Earlier this year, the French incumbent announced details of a service for small- and mid-sized businesses that makes use of SDN and NFV technologies and is being offered under the EasyConnect brand. (See Orange Unveils NFV-Based Offering for SMBs.)

Verizon, meanwhile, introduced an SDN-based wide area network service in partnership with Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) a few weeks ago, allowing enterprises to connect employees to business applications regardless of their location. (See Verizon, Cisco Launch Smarter WAN.)

Hakl's update on the response to that rollout could offer some encouragement to vendors gathered at Tuesday's show.

"We have signed tens of millions of dollars in contracts since we launched for customers crossing the US into Europe," he told attendees.

Earlier on Tuesday, Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT) and Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD) both announced plans for the launch of VPN services based on the use of SDN and NFV technologies. (See DT, Vodafone to Launch SDN-Based VPNs.)

Operators have themselves been cagey about the cost savings they expect to realize from New IP technologies, but a white paper from management consultancy firm Arthur D. Little and Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) R&D arm Bell Labs estimates that European Union service providers could save about €14 billion ($15.9 billion) annually -- or 10% of total industry opex -- from the use of SDN and NFV. (See Will Investing in SDN & NFV Be Worth It?.)

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

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About the Author(s)

Iain Morris

International Editor, Light Reading

Iain Morris joined Light Reading as News Editor at the start of 2015 -- and we mean, right at the start. His friends and family were still singing Auld Lang Syne as Iain started sourcing New Year's Eve UK mobile network congestion statistics. Prior to boosting Light Reading's UK-based editorial team numbers (he is based in London, south of the river), Iain was a successful freelance writer and editor who had been covering the telecoms sector for the past 15 years. His work has appeared in publications including The Economist (classy!) and The Observer, besides a variety of trade and business journals. He was previously the lead telecoms analyst for the Economist Intelligence Unit, and before that worked as a features editor at Telecommunications magazine. Iain started out in telecoms as an editor at consulting and market-research company Analysys (now Analysys Mason).

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