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Subscriber Choice is Making NFV and SDN Critical for Operators

By Erik Linask April 03, 2014

Traditionally, business conversation has focused on working faster as a means of increasing productivity. At some point, though, the conversation changed to finding ways to “work smarter,” with the growth of super trends like cloud and mobility. Networking technology has followed a similar path – perhaps in even more obvious fashion, especially with the exponential increase in the number of devices demanding network resources.

But, we’ve passed a tipping point, where existing networks simply aren’t able to handle the capacity strains put on them without causing an intolerable user experience.  Furthermore, as more content is being delivered as OTT services, the opportunity for service providers to fail - and fall into the dumb pipe trap, will only increase.  But, it also opens the door to opportunity.

Those looking to protect their subscriber bases (and revenue streams), are turning those pipes into intelligent networks, based on a detailed understanding of trends driving network activity. To this end, one of the biggest trends, according to Cam Cullen, vice president, global marketing at Procera Networks, is the growing interest in NFV and SDN.

The idea of virtualization of network functions, he says, will create even greater opportunities in what is quickly becoming a best-of-breed world.

“The integrated play has become passé now that you can just virtualize best of breed software,” he says.  “But, it’s not just about savings enjoyed from reduction in hardware – the ongoing benefits come from OPEX savings and fewer points of failure.”

It is also likely to increase application and service innovation, as the cost to try new things will be driven down though virtualization. With dedicated hardware, failure isn’t an option due to the investment.  NFV and SDN will, on the other hand, not only make testing and delivery easier, they will allow operators to introduce much lower scale services while still generating revenue.  Without the dedicated hardware, the critical subscriber mass is significantly lower.

“When you combine SDN and NFV, operationally, it becomes far simpler to manage traffic flow, and configuration is much simpler and easier,” adds Cullen. “SDN and NFV don’t have to have each other – but they make each other better.”

The effect, hopefully, will be an increase in service innovation due to increased competition resulting from subscriber and network intelligence – something that has already been happening in European markets, but has largely stalled in the U.S., where operators have been notoriously slow to understand the benefits of subscriber loyalty (note: loyalty and fear are vastly different). 

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

Group Editorial Director

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