The telecom industry is in a state of flux at the moment. New technologies have emerged promising to optimize network infrastructure, alleviate CAPEX and improve the speed and quality of service delivery. While many of these applications remain largely theoretical, service providers are ramping up investments and are growing ever closer to realizing the tangible benefits of concepts like SDN and NFV orchestration.
Announced in 2013, AT&T's bold Domain 2.0 initiative served as a notice for telecom industry members: The time is now to embrace the changing face of network topography and implement virtualized assets. Many other service providers have since followed suit, taking steps to introduce virtual components into crowded network environments. Between the bare metal groundwork, deployed clouds and decoupled data planes, telecoms are sure to oversee far more complex infrastructures than even a few years ago. Given these circumstances, many questions remain, perhaps most pressing of all: Where does NFV fit into the equation?
NFV has matured to the point of working effectively in real-life conditions.
NFV vs SDN
At the center of this discussion sits the ongoing relationship between NFV and SDN. A recent study from Argus Insights suggested that interest in SDN has outpaced NFV, while others including Sonus Networks CTO Kevin Riley have stated that NFV will ultimately provide more value to service providers. NFV and SDN do not need to be either/or investments, however. Both can benefit telecom operations in their own ways. In fact, NFV may even help telecoms address some of the stated drawbacks of SDN such as potential latency and jitter issues.
TechTarget contributor Lee Doyle explained that both SDN and NFV will ultimately benefit service providers, enabling them to improve their services while lowering associated costs. For its part, NFV promises to reduce costly investments into dedicated appliances and allow for the rapid deployment of new services and applications. The ability to lower time to market, reduce CAPEX and OPEX costs as well as scale resources when needed will put service providers in a more advantageous position within their industry.
NFV is ready for prime time
Riley argued that the time is right for service providers to view NFV investment with greater consideration since the technology has matured to a point of providing the orchestration and control needed to work effectively in real-life conditions. The promise of reducing expenditures as well as enabling service providers to leverage commodity hardware and avoid vendor lock-in is sure to keep interest in NFV running high for the foreseeable future.
According to figures released by the New Jersey Institute of Technology, broadband download speeds advertised to consumers have grown 20 percent every year since 1997. To keep pace with the demand of and expectation for lightning fast and reliable services, all without breaking the bank on expensive infrastructure overhauls, telecoms need to manage assets like NFV effectively and seamlessly integrate them with existing bare metal resources.
As service providers move beyond the proof-of-concept stage and begin looking to put NFV into production, solutions for managing and optimizing their converged infrastructure will become a requirement. Tools like QualiSystems CloudShell enable organizations to effectively orchestrate, provision and automate any type of infrastructure and avoid the complications that may arise when attempting to integrate bare metal frameworks with virtual and cloud assets.
The takeaway: The telecom industry is being reshaped by the advent of NFV, increasing demand for virtual resources that can reduce CAPEX and OPEX costs while providing for more sophisticated and efficient channels of service delivery. Bridging the gap between assets such as NFV, SDN and the cloud with bare metal infrastructure will be no easy feat. CloudShell and other best-of-class cloud automation solutions will be critical for handling orchestration, provisioning and automation needs within the converged infrastructure of the future.