Orange Sets 'Golden Rules' to Score NFV Vendors

Operator combats cost-optimized proprietary pitches with suitability cores and calls for more defined test models.

May 31, 2017

4 Min Read
Orange Sets 'Golden Rules' to Score NFV Vendors

MADRID -- Network Virtualization Europe -- In an effort to grade low-priced, proprietary virtualization propositions from major equipment vendors, Orange has created a set of "Golden Rules" that it uses to rate vendor responses to its RFPs, a senior executive from the operator revealed here today.

Michał Nowakowski, Europe IT & Network Transformation director at Orange (NYSE: FTE), noted during a keynote here that, following on from its initial success with the Easy Go network-as-a-service virtual VPN proposition -- "We have customers calling us, asking for it … without any sales [outreach]" -- Orange is planning much broader virtualization rollouts, as signaled by CEO Stéphane Richard during the operator's recent "Hello" presentation in Paris. (See Orange to Bring Virtual LiveBox to France in 2018, Orange Kicks Off 'Universal CPE' Trials and Orange Plots Mass Network-as-a-Service Rollout.)

That broader rollout includes plans for virtual EPC (evolved packet core), virtual CDN (content delivery network), virtual RAN (radio access network) and more, as well as the deployment of supporting infrastructure at a local, national and regional level.

As a result, Orange has issued a number of request for proposals (RFPs) to the vendor community and, says Nowakowski, vendors have been playing a clever game when responding.

At first, he says, the vendors are enthusiastic about Orange's plans, which are based on a non-proprietary, multivendor architecture designed to avoid supplier lock-in and support virtual network functions (VNFs) from any partner.

But then, towards the end of the process, Orange noticed what Nowakowski calls "standard vendor behavior" -- basically, an RFP response that says "it's nice that you want to run our technology on top of your platform but if you take our platform as well as our VNFs, then we'll provide it all at a lower price" and support it.

Such proposals "made it hard for us to present the responses to the CFO and argue that we would like to focus on the option that is more expensive," said Nowakowski.

But Orange is determined to stick with its plans to build and run a network that enables functions and elements to be swapped in or out when required, so the operator developed a set of "Golden Rules" for RFPs "based on our reference platform to score responses." That process more easily identifies, even for the CFO, the ones that are "aligned with our standards" and goals, with responses that focus on proprietary bundles scoring badly.

That puts Orange among a growing number of operators that, in theory at least, are fending off the proprietary advances of the vendor community, which, while shouting loudly about embracing "open" architectures, are still pushing hard to provide single-vendor solutions and software functions that are tied to proprietary hardware. Vodafone, with its Ocean virtualization project, has also stuck to its multivendor guns and is set to select its universal CPE provider(s) shortly, while AT&T and Verizon have also recently been banging the universal CPE/white box drum. (See AT&T Wants OCP to Consider uCPE Spec and ADVA Stuffs a Cloud Into Verizon's uCPE.)

Want to know more about the companies, people and organizations driving developments in the virtualization sector? Check out Virtuapedia, the most comprehensive online resource covering the virtualization industry.

That's not the operator's only beef with the vendor community, as Nowakowski notes there is still a basic lack of interoperability between virtual network functions and NFV infrastructure platforms. "There's still a lot of focus on interoperability in our [NFV] labs" because "currently the vendors say their systems work [with each other] and they don't." So the Orange exec would like to see trustworthy test models developed by the NFV community that would cut down the number of repeated test processes: If the current situation persists, then the deployment of further NFV capabilities will be "very, very slow."

And things need to speed up: Orange is one of the key supporters of the open source ONAP management and orchestration (MANO) development and plans to deploy it "in a stable way" in the 2018-2019 timeframe. (See ONAP Makes Splashy ONS Debut.)

While it plans for its next deployments, Orange is building upon its existing Easy Go deployment by preparing to launch a new service, high-end disaster recovery, based on the existing, deployed capabilities.

— Ray Le Maistre, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, International Group Editor, Light Reading

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