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The Reality Behind SDN and NFV Myths

By Joe Rizzo June 26, 2015

As of late, we are seeing demand coming from customers who are pushing for software-defined networks (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV). The problem is that while operators agree that change is needed, not all are on board. There are the ones who have already initiated change, such as AT&T, Orange and Telefonica then there are the ones who are waiting to see the results of these changes, seeking standards, guidelines and lessons learned.

It would appear that the waiting group is creating fear, uncertainty and doubt concerning how to go about moving to SDN and NFV solutions. Most likely the real concern is over their revenue stream. In some instances a multi-vendor approach needs to be taken which would definitely cut into their revenue; however, it would provide the customer with their best options.

We have been seeing a lot of startup companies and over-the-top (OTT) providers entering the arena. It is because of this that traditional, larger vendors are putting out the message that one stop shopping is the way to go. Essentially, the idea is that “You can get everything you need from us.”

Listed above is the first myth perpetrated, the reality is that having a single vendor does not necessarily reduce the time it takes to troubleshoot an issue, it might even increase it. Customers want their products to work and work reliably, that is an essential part of the service. Potentially, a single vendor with a vertically-integrated approach typically does not have the level of separation between different solution components. This can result in lengthier troubleshooting and repair time.

There are quite a few myths proposing that choosing a single vendor solution is more cost effective, leading to easier price negotiating and saving the company major expenses. The reality is that most companies that have gone the route of multi-vendors have already realized cost savings. Companies who have chosen the right vendors to work with have been able to cut equipment costs and have seen substantial savings on update and upgrade expenses.

Moving from one platform to another will always require a transitional period. The idea proposed is that large vendors have the knowhow, equipment and man power to complete the transition, which the startups and more localized vendors cannot provide. Something to keep in mind here is the word transition.

This is a transition and not a complete shutdown of one system in favor of another. I have worked with large vendors when certain changes needed to be made. I have found that more often than not, incumbent vendors will try to slow down the process by pushing for a complete network transformation instead of a more controlled and gradual approach.

Image via Shutterstock

What I have noticed is that the result is a very large, multi-year project set up to justify their involvement. The reality is that by using a multi-vendor approach, the company may be able to work on several smaller projects, designed to integrate with each other, at the same time. This leads to a faster and more reliable transition.

The approach to take is the one that works best for your company. If you find a single vendor that can successfully provide your company with everything that it needs, there is no need to look elsewhere. However, the reality is that when you try to integrate various components, many of which are new and still maturing, using the vendor that has the most experience and proven track record is a better option, leading to a multi-vendor approach. 

Edited by Dominick Sorrentino

Contributing Writer

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