SDN FEATURE NEWS

Openwave Exec Discusses the Benefits, Challenges of NFV & SDN

By Paula Bernier November 12, 2013

SNS Research forecasts the SDN and NFV space will be worth $4 billion next year alone. Others have suggested that between 30 and 40 percent of the total networking spend will be influenced by SDN over the next six years, which means the total SDN market could reach $35 billion by 2018. By why are network operators so interested in SDN and NFV, and what are some of the challenges of realizing these benefits?

NFV Zone recently spoke with Indranil Chatterjee, vice president of Product Management, Marketing and Strategy, at Openwave Mobility for more perspective on these important questions.

What benefits/advantages does a software telco have over a legacy telco?

The aim of SDN and NFV is to leverage COTS hardware, homogeneous virtualization technology and dynamic service chaining across applications to allow dynamic provisioning, deployment and configuration of applications, while also enabling service personalization. This in turn would enable the reduction in CAPEX, OPEX and provide faster time to market for new and differentiated applications. In comparison, legacy telco networks are reliant on long lead times for hardware provisioning, hard wired service chaining using APNs as an example resulting in higher CAPEX, OPEX and longer time to market.

How does SDN facilitate NFV?

Where SDN was created by researchers and datacenter architects, NFV was created by service providers. The primary aim of NFV technology is to be able to dynamically orchestrate compute, storage and networking resources to enable operators to elastically ramp up or down resources for applications based on demand

SDN, on the other hand, is the separation of the control and data planes, and centralization of the control of flow management, route computation and topology management of the network. Although both technologies are complementary, neither is dependent on the other. SDN truly compliments NFV by enabling dynamic service chaining through its centralized controller. The controller can program the flow table in the switch based on subscriber awareness of a given flow.

In summary, SDN is primarily responsible for service orchestration while NFV is mainly focused on resource orchestration.

Are there any drawbacks to the software telco revolution?

The evolution to SDN and NFV is clearly a question of when and not if. All our customers are in various stages of evaluation, prototype and trial. Having said that, it is imperative that operators plan this carefully in terms of which applications to begin with, which technology stack to adopt –opens source versus proprietary – and whether to go for a public cloud versus private cloud. As is expected, at this relatively early stage there are quite a few choices. Operators need to consider various factors including the skillset needed among their network and IT professionals to make this transition a success and reap the benefits in terms of TCO, time to market and service personalization.

Can you successfully compete with OTT if you aren’t a software telco?

It is hard to say whether any operator is successfully competing with OTT at present. Frankly, the world is set up perfectly for OTT players who have the perfect platform - the Internet - to deliver their services. Becoming a software telco definitely helps you collaborate and make money from OTT partnerships and this will better equip them to match the agility and adaptability of OTT players.

What BSS/OSS changes will be needed in a rapid service deployment software telco world?

One of the main aims of NFV is to enable greater network flexibility, but legacy OSS/BSS systems historically have struggled with interoperability. In order for OSS/BSS to survive the introduction of NFV, systems need to be able to keep up with the rapid changes that virtualization allows. The drive towards OSS/BSS interoperability between vendors is being powered by OSSii, with the aim of enabling “Easier interoperability between OSS systems, reducing overall OSS integration costs and enabling shorter time-to-market”. OSS/BSS players also needs to be more agile to keep up with the rapid pace of innovation and new service rollout.

What role does the cloud play in NFV and software telco?

The private cloud will be a critical element of NFV as it ensures a common IaaS and PaaS for all applications that are virtualized in a telco’s network. Without a homogenous cloud, telcos will not be able to realize the benefits of application elasticity and TCO benefits as we efficiently use resources including compute, storage and network across all applications. 

However, “cloudifying” the network brings challenges in how services and applications can be delivered and will require a new approach to how services are managed. Organizations such as CloudNFV are currently working on ways to address such complications by creating open interfaces.

How should proprietary network equipment vendors react to the move towards NFV and SDN?

Although SDN is still in the discussion phase, the NFV standards and use cases are being finalized by European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) therefore proprietary network equipment vendors are all going to have to support it. Carriers will be looking for solutions that enable them to move towards NFV and SDN architectures, so OEMs need to offer compatible solutions in order to remain competitive in the market. At Openwave Mobility we are already engaged in this process with our Integra Platform which has been designed from the ground up with true separation of control plane interactions and user plane packet processing.

How will the move to software-based telcos facilitate new ecosystems and partnerships?

Virtualization can only help increase interworking and proprietary interfaces are slowly but surely being phased out. So the move towards software-based telcos will enable a greater range of partnerships, as interoperability will be a key benefit. Operators will no longer be restricted by hardware that is expensive and slow to update. This means a network can expand and contract according to demand quickly, therefore reducing time-to-market and the costs of running a network. Operators will also have a greater choice of vendors, as “pure software” players will begin to emerge, creating a more competitive market.

What will the software telco world look like in three years?

Operators at the forefront are already building “ring-fenced” pilots of NFV. Fast-forward three years and I can imagine that those operators will have learned a lot from these pilots and expanded the scale to the extent that their subscribers would feel the impact of what is essentially a back-end technology. The most exciting part of the move towards a software telco world are the possibilities that it opens up for end users. It means new business models, better ways of handling traffic, new ways of pricing and charging subscribers. I am hopeful, even confident, that subscribers will directly feel the positive impact in less than three years. Of course they’ll never know that their operator is better, smarter or more innovative because of software defined networking and virtualization.




Edited by Stefania Viscusi

Executive Editor, TMC

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