Promises and challenges of open source software and ‘extreme automation’ in NFV/SDN
Leading operators head to the cloud
Day by day, more communication service providers (CSPs) are combining NFV (network functions virtualization) and SDN (software-defined networks) to enable new enterprise services, for example with SD-WAN and hybrid cloud solutions, and creating differentiation and upsell opportunities. Business customers are finding the features these solution support, such as self-service, on-demand delivery, connectivity choice and performance visibility and optimisation, attractive.
And at least one CSP has told us that these services’ gross margins are significantly improved compared to ‘classic’ VPN services, a result predicted by Analysys Mason’s NFV/SDN business case modelling.
Harnessing open source and ‘extreme automation’
However, implementing a platform for virtual/hybrid network management remains challenging. The community-based approach behind open source software will prove instrumental in supporting multi-vendor, multi-domain automation as CSPs evolve toward cloud-native operations, but only after rationalisation, says The author of this blog is Dana Cooperson, head of Networks-Focused Software Systems Research at Analysys Mason.
Figure 1 shows the ten top initiatives for CSPs and how many each leading CSP supports. This tangled web is only growing (e.g., AT&T’s plans to release ECOMP as an alternative to OSM and OPEN-O), increasing market confusion and fragmenting support along regional and other lines. Only the largest, wealthiest CSPs can afford deep engagement in these initiatives; the rest must depend on partners.
Figure 1: Number of key NFV/SDN-related open-source initiatives affiliations by region and by CSP (only CSPs with more than one affiliation are shown)
Regardless of which management and orchestration automation platform and other strategies a CSP chooses, to achieve business agility it must implement a new operational model. The entire service lifecycle [You can also see: Telco cloud transformation and hybrid network management], from creation to update/retirement, must be reimagined with a DevOps mindset to achieve extreme automation.
Customer analytics in combination with network analytics is a crucial element of service assurance and driving lifecycle automation based on business KPIs. CSPs must incrementally build trust in closed loop automation. Figure 2 suggests a possible path to building that comfort while making the shift to a cloud-native future.
Figure 2: Building trust in extreme automation in a series of steps[ RCA is root cause analysis.]
Our research indicates that the market may be taking a pause to sort out the platform issues related to open source, automation and architecture (specifically containerisation, a subject for another blog post). However, CSPs are posting quick wins for SD-WAN and related enterprise services and the market will continue to push forward as it sorts out these broader challenges.
The author of this blog is Dana Cooperson, head of Networks-Focused Software Systems Research at Analysys Mason.
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