Will hybrid traditional/NFV solutions be a stepping stone to successful deployments?
According to one carrier, hybrid traditional/NFV solutions are not just important they are the only way forward. In part 4 of ‘How to avoid NFV transformation pains’ Jeremy Cowan talks to vendors and CSPs about the route to NFV
Senior network architect, Javier Benitez at Colt Technology Services, says NFV requires significant transformation and communication service providers (CSPs) cannot realistically change all legacy networks overnight. Hybrid solutions allow for new network functions virtualisation (NFV) services to interoperate with existing ones, enabling a gradual transformation. Any NFV implementation has to be fully integrated with operation support systems (OSS) and traditional network systems in order to succeed.
Mervyn Kelly, EMEA marketing director at Ciena, takes a slightly more sanguine view. “Existing infrastructure will be in place for some time while more and more software-based functions and services are enabled. As a result we expect to see hybrid network models emerge which, over time, will continually lead to a greater and greater focus on virtualised, software applications and services.”
“While the workforce will thus need to adapt and/or be supplemented by those with the latest software skills in order to accommodate the move from a dependence primarily on hardware to primarily software, it will be important,” says Kelly, “to maintain the vast networking knowledge base of the current team.”
He also believes it will be critical that the transition is managed to maximise the benefit to the operator, ultimately maximising the value of existing talent and infrastructure while bringing on new skills to drive the new services and applications that will help create differentiation in an increasingly crowded marketplace. “It’s also important to note that these changes will extend beyond the technical and engineering teams; departments from sales and billing to marketing will also need to adapt to reap the benefits new SDN and NFV-enabled business models will create.” (VanillaPlus.com will focus on NFV Skills in the next article in this series. Ed.)
Hard to scale in NFV
Hybrid environments are here to stay but it can be frustratingly hard to build scalable hybrid environments. So says, senior architect, Gary McKenzie at Peer 1 Hosting. “Our experience is that actually identifying places where you can stage a complete migration to NFV (or ‘greenfield deployments’) can be beneficial as it frees you from the need to think about how to integrate with existing process and systems and you can concentrate on getting your core NFV deployment done right before you tackle the harder pieces.”
Gerry Donohoe, director of Solutions Engineering at Openet tells VanillaPlus.com that you need to consider the financial aspect too. “One cannot ignore the massive investment in existing systems and so it is likely a hybrid model will be used. In addition, due to performance concerns, traditional solutions may still be the correct technology choice when massive data plane throughput is required. Initially, NFV may be more suited to adjunct roll-outs such VoLTE, M2M or supporting MVNOs.”
Service providers are, of course, taking different routes to NFV according to their past network investments and overall strategy. Shaul Rozen, director of Product Strategy, Amdocs, says some service providers are choosing to start at the network edge, others start with the core network for specific segments, while some opt for fully virtualised environment for new domains.
“Whatever the approach,” says Rozen, “NFV is not an island and interacts with existing systems to varying degrees. Even in a so called ‘pure’ NFV environment there is a need for physical resources allocation and configuration, and the need to integrate to operational support systems (OSS) and business support systems (BSS). In reality, any scalable live network implementation needs to integrate with an existing network and existing operational processes and operation systems.”
Addressing the wider operation and integration issues early on can ensure that NFV services, whether purely virtual at the functional level or hybrid, can scale automatically and do not create unnecessary complexities due to manual processes down the road.