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High Demand Created by SDN and NFV Presents Challenges for Operators

By Joe Rizzo June 25, 2015

We are at a fascinating time when technology seems to evolve, change and mature at a much quicker pace than what we have been used to. Service providers have to contend with users and their bring-your-own-device (BYOD) demands, banks and insurance companies continue to ask questions about data protection and business continuity, while business owners who have a little amount of cloud computing knowledge are dangerous.

The current demand is coming from customers who are pushing for software-defined networks (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV). While it seems true that operators agree that change is needed, they seem divided into two camps. On the one hand there are those initiating the changes by beginning implementation of NFV and SDN, such as AT&T, DT, China Unicom, Orange, Telefonica and NTT. On the other hand there are those waiting to see the results of these changes, seeking standards, guidelines and lessons learned.

In a recent posting on Channelnomics, it was noted that Wayne Cheung, who is the director of product marketing of SDN and NFV at Juniper Networks, said during IHS Infonetics' Service Provider Experiences with NFV: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly webinar earlier this week that customer demand is driving the need for NFV and SDN.

One of the challenges that Cheung sees stems from the two camps mentioned above. He said, "We're seeing complex configurations - complex services - chained together, so we need to be able to quickly and agilely develop against these services so we move into the world of exceeding customer expectations."

As you can imagine, the process can be slow if only half of the providers take the lead to push ahead. Cheung agrees with this idea feeling that currently, services tend to develop in the market slowly. As operators need to increase revenue through new digital, media, Internet of Things (IoT), cloud and enterprise service offers, they also have to control costs through streamlined operations.

Not surprising one of the other challenges that solution providers face is cost. If you notice, the companies mentioned above that are already moving forward include some of the biggest operators on a global level. Many of the other providers have to first work around capital and operating expense costs and how they fit into future plans.

Image via Shutterstock

On this note, Cheung said, "Capex requires large upfront costs and being able to determine where that demand is coming from. Operational costs are high due to complexity and challenges of that side of the network. How do we bring some solutions around SDN and NFV? We develop the right size cost models to address these challenges with virtualization so we align with customer demand."

On the flip side of the coin, although customer demand for SDN and NFV is high, they also face organizational challenges, lack of skills and a clear business case. If organizations do not first solve these problems on their end, it could potentially diminish the value of NFV and SDN, leading to the fear that it may create a new layer of integration problems.

It seems that there are challenges for delivering the right NFV and SDN solutions for both ends. It is also clear that these technologies are new to both sides of the equation and it is necessary to overcome the challenges presented since this is definitely the direction that we are heading toward.

Edited by Dominick Sorrentino

Contributing Writer

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