What does Network Function Virtualisation mean for the channel?
As Network Function Virtualisation (NFV) becomes ever more widely adopted, many channel partners and resellers are making this new technology their top priority for 2016.
This focus is hardly surprising, with the NFV market forecast to grow at more than 80% annually between now and 2020, compared to an annual growth rate of less than 10% for traditional networking hardware.
A key component of the New IP, NFV allows IT teams to decouple network functions from dedicated hardware devices and allow network services that are now being carried out by routers, firewalls and load balancers and other dedicated hardware devices to be hosted on virtual machines (VM’s). Once the network functions are under the control of a hypervisor, the services that once require dedicated hardware can be performed on standard x86 servers. The benefits to the business include, significant reduction in cost of hardware, greater operational efficiencies and allows the IT teams to deploy new services at the click of a mouse says Kristian Kerr director, EMEA partner organisation at Brocade.
For channel partners, the move towards NFV undoubtedly represents a huge opportunity to grow revenues and deliver value added services and strengthen customer relationships. Put simply the NFV opportunity falls into three distinct phases: preparation for NFV, managing the transition, and post-deployment service and support.
The first of these opportunities – preparing for NFV – is perhaps the most pressing for partners. Those service providers and enterprises looking to take advantage of the benefits NFV and other aspects of the New IP can deliver in the long-term are likely to need to make significant changes to their existing physical infrastructure. A virtualised machine does still require a physical infrastructure on which to run and many businesses will need help building the robust, agile foundation needed to roll-out NFV in 2016 and beyond.
Secondly, it’s important to remember that no organisation will make the switch to NFV overnight. This will always be a phased transition with network functions moved over gradually and channel partners will have a vital role to play during this process. There is a real opportunity for partners to build deeper, more strategic relationships with their customers by helping IT teams to manage this change smoothly and painlessly.
Longer term, there are also myriad longer term opportunities for channel partners to grow revenue and add value for customers. A software-led technology such as NFV will always require support in terms of integration and on-going support, creating opportunities for partners that can deliver additional services post-deployment.
So, how can partners take advantage of these opportunities? The most important thing is, of course, developing a high level of skill and technical knowledge with regard to NFV and the technologies that support it. Traditional networking skills will still be hugely important but partners will also need DevOps capabilities, virtualisation expertise, NFV/SDN concepts and skills for the evolution from element management to programming the network.
The first step for partners is therefore to become familiar with the vendors operating in this space and the technologies they are creating. Make sure you thoroughly research each vendor and look for opportunities to get hands-on experience with the technology: get it into your labs and run some tests. That’s the only way partners can give the best advice to customers and find out what really delivers on the NFV promise of a smarter, simpler, more scalable network.
Partners should then focus on formalising their knowledge of the best offerings through vendor training and accreditation programmes. As leaders in the NFV area, we at Brocade have invested heavily in our NFV and Software Networking training and certification courses to support partners as they look to capture this huge transformational opportunity.
IT teams know they will need help in making the transition to NFV. Therefore, partners that have the right skills and knowledge with have a real competitive advantage when it comes to turning the growth in the NFV market into real revenue for their business.
The author of this blog is Kristian Kerr, director, EMEA partner organisation at Brocade.