NFV (Network functions virtualization)

What Carriers Want From OPNFV

Carriers have a variety of hopes for OPNFV, but interoperability and integration top the list, according to a Heavy Reading survey presented today at the OPNFV Summit in Beijing.

NFV is far from settled, of course. Asked to pick one barrier to NFV, the 98 respondents to the survey -- carrier employees, 72% of them engineers, network planners or R&D -- flocked to interoperability most frequently (27.8%). But overall, the answers were fragmented: MANO maturity and OSS/BSS integration; the skills gap when it comes to modern programming and software tools; cultural issues; and executive buy-in each got more than 10% of the vote.

It's a reflection of the complexity of NFV and the long task ahead of Open Platform for NFV Project Inc. (OPNFV), the open source project developing an NFV reference architecture out of open source pieces.

Collectively, carriers have embraced open source, but progress in bringing NFV to life has been slow. That's led The New IP Agency , under the guidance of Light Reading founder Steve Saunders, to take a swing at NFV interoperability, with service models looking like one option the group will pursue. (See Order From Chaos: The Steve Saunders BCE Keynote and NFV Woes Could Be Fixed With Service Models, BT Suggests.)

Code is emerging as exemplified by AT&T's ECOMP, which is now part of the Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP) project. But vendors are starting to question how a business model built around open source software might work. (See ONAP Makes Splashy ONS Debut, Open Sores: Are Telcos on a Collision Course With Vendors? and Facebook Takes TIP in New Direction as Investors Doubt Open Source Payback.)

The good news for OPNFV is that 98% of the respondents were somewhat or very satisfied that OPNFV is "delivering on its promises."

But when asked what OPNFV's most important activity is, carriers gave a mix of answers. Twenty-six percent chose interoperability testing on different NFVi platforms -- which makes sense, as this kind of interoperability is crucial to NFV's goal of avoiding vendor lock-in.

Answers were all over the map, though, reflecting the broad challenge facing OPNFV and NFV in general.

Table 1: What Is the Most Important Thing That OPNFV Is Doing Right Now?

Promoting network operator interest in upstream projects 19.8%
Providing testing facilities 10.4%
Providing end-to-end functional and system testing 10.4%
Helping converge architectural concepts 10.4%
Developing reference stacks 8.3%
Getting involved with management & orchestration (MANO) 7.3%
Prototyping and incubating new NFV features 3.1%
Providing performance test suites 3.1%
Source: Heavy Reading

Respondents were asked to list the top benefits they expect from OPNFV, and easier NFV integration ranked first by a comfortable margin. Their second choice was more rapid deployment of NFV.

What would get carriers more involved in OPNFV? Three answers in the survey stood out: OPNFV-provided developer training, more documentation and a better articulation of OPNFV's strategy each got votes from nearly half the respondents. (They were allowed to pick multiple answers to this question.)

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— Craig Matsumoto, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

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