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Real Progress Toward Virtualized Networks

13 Nov 2013 / Nirav Modi

I was at the ETSI NFV ISG (Industry Specification Group) meeting in Sunnyvale, CA a couple of weeks ago and it was exciting to see how quickly work on NFV has progressed. The inaugural meeting for the NFV ISG was held just 10 months ago in Sophia-Antipolis, France. Since then working-group members, operators and vendors alike, have collaborated and produced ISG-level specifications covering requirements, end-to-end-architecture, use-cases, and the framework for the recently announced proof-of-concepts.

Network operators are continuing to drive the requirements and stressing the need to remain focused on delivering a comprehensive framework by the time the NFV ISG activities wrap up – currently slated for the first part of 2015.

Although there is on-going work toward completion of the framework specifications, there was an air of urgency around defining and executing proof-of-concepts to help validate the work completed thus far. Practical feedback from the proof-of-concepts will help solidify the framework and guide the group’s future work-items.

It was refreshing to see several vendors working collaboratively toward building and delivering multi-vendor HW and SW solutions. Operators are demanding this and some vendors are responding. Unfortunately, there are still factions of vendors pushing vertically-integrated solutions. But by-and-large, the majority of operators and vendors are pursuing open, multi-vendor ideas to facilitate a new age of global network transformation.

There are still challenges ahead. There are differences in the deployment models and architectures that are being considered. These variations can make it challenging for orchestration software vendors to develop broadly accepted solutions and results in additional complexity.

There are several factors driving the variation in deployment models; some operators have already been experimenting with virtualization in their labs and investigating architectures that can be most-easily integrated into their existing network and operating environments. Others are taking a top-down approach, defining their next-generation architecture, and pushing those requirements into the NFV framework and vendors. The final factor is vendor-agenda. Open, multi-vendor solutions threaten incumbent vendors. Existing vendors, who feel challenged by the transformation upon us, continue to push closed solutions best suited to their own architectures.

Of course it was not all work – there was a wonderful “Celebration of Life” evening reception on Thursday where we got a chance to enjoy some music, flamenco dancing, a tequila shot (or two) and to come out from inside the cloud and enjoy the real-world around us.

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