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SDN and NFV Moving from Lab to Trials and Operators Cite Top NFV Use Case

By Peter Bernstein April 02, 2014

There is a famous and oft repeated line in absurdist playwright Samuel Beckett’s masterpiece Waiting for Godot. The two main characters Vladimir and Estragon keep asking, “When Will He Ever Come?” When it comes to the communications industry and its implementation of carrier-class software-defined networking (SDN) and the carrier-centric network functions virtualization (NFV), there has been a lot of talk but not a lot of action. That is until now.

New research from analyst firm Infonetics Research in its 2014 SDN and NFV Strategies: Global Service Provider Survey, says SDN and NFV are on the move. The survey, conducted with leading global operators representing 51 percent of worldwide telecom CapEx and 47 percent of revenue, reveals executives’ takes on the timing and priority of the use cases for SDN and NFV projects.

What is so different from just a very few years ago is as the graphic below indicates is that the industry consensus about in essence becoming a Software Telco is now about question of  when and how, and no longer about if.

Michael Howard, co-founder and principal analyst for carrier networks at Infonetics Research, in commenting on the research noted, “This is the year that SDN and NFV move from the lab to field trials. Many carriers are in the process of moving from SDN/NFV proof-of-concept projects to working with vendors in the development and ‘productization’ of software that will become the basis for commercial deployments. I saw a lot of this software running in demos in vendor and operator stands at the recent Mobile World Congress, and it’s easy to see it is much more real this year.”  

Howard adds: “Over the coming months, a few operators will move to actual commercial deployments, mostly specific NFV use cases, but only a few. It won’t be until 2015 that we’ll see commercial deployments kick into motion, still most likely on a limited basis, as operators put one or two use cases to the test under real world conditions, in their live networks.”

So what is on the minds of the industry as it gets ready to deploy SDN and NFV?

The SDN and NFV future is on the way

Key findings from the survey include:

  • 29 percent of survey participants are currently implementing SDNs
  • 52 percent plan to evaluate SDNs by the end of 2014
  • A majority of respondents are targeting the MPLS backbone core and cloud services for SDN first, then multilayer transport
  • Respondents rated business vE-CPE (using NFV for the delivery of services to businesses/enterprises) the #1 use case overall for NFV in 2014–2015
  • Business vE-CPE is also ranked the top use case for revenue generation
  • Back office OSS/BSS was cited as the biggest barrier to deploying NFV
  • Telecom and data center equipment vendors are well positioned to take considerable market share in SDN/NFV, with virtually all respondents stating they are likely to buy from the major vendors

Infonetics as a result of these findings believes that as carriers expect to eventually reduce spending on telecom hardware and software, “A good way for vendors to increase revenue is by beefing up integration services to meet customers’ needs and expectations.”

I like Michael Howard, was also extremely impressed in Barcelona with the demonstrations of SDN and NVV at the MWC. In many ways, given how slowly communications infrastructure tends to evolve and ultimately gets adopted, what was most surprising is how far the industry has come in agreeing on a common vision of the future and also the speed at which progress is being made to make that future a reality. 

SDN and NFV unlike Beckett are not about absurdist visions and waiting for something that may never come.  It is about how in what I have often described as “The Age of Acceleration,” where the only things we can be sure of is change and the speed at which it is coming at us driving the need to adapt or perish, the communications industry is in fact moving rather fast. 




Edited by Cassandra Tucker
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