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The promise and peril of network virtualization

Service providers want the technological flexibility, business agility and savings that Network Function Virtualization (NFV) promises, but they're frustrated by its implementation complexity and cost and the fact that it requires additional work on top of all their other projects and initiatives. A new market brief from iconectiv, NFV information as a service making virtualization practical, simple and telco-grade, explores the top four reasons why those roadblocks exist (particularly around the onboarding of Virtual Network Functions (VNF) and Cloud Native Functions (CNF) and identifies how service providers can overcome them to begin leveraging all of NFV's benefits.

Some analysts describe NFV as "The Wild West." The brief explains why that's the case-and how ETSI, GSMA and MEF standards activities should be harmonized with open source initiatives such as Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP) and Open Platform for NFV (OPNFV). One example of recent activity to address onboarding is the formation of the Common NFVI Telco Task Force (CNTT) to address variances and onboarding-related testing and certification.

Service providers currently struggle with the thousands of potential NFV Infrastructure (NFVI) and VNF combinations from dozens of vendors, plus the fact that NFV is still a nascent technology. As the iconectiv market brief explains, this complexity increases the cost and lead time for developing and deploying network services due to four roadblocks:

  1. Complicated multi-vendor integration
  2. Low vendor maturity
  3. Highly complex security
  4. Shortage of people with NFV skills

Some service providers have additional challenges. For example, network slicing is a fundamental part of fifth generation (5G) mobile technology. A mobile service provider could have multiple VNF providers for each slice. Manually ingesting software from that many vendors is complex and time consuming, and in turn delays each slice's time to launch and earn revenue.

The iconectiv market brief identifies a solution for overcoming these roadblocks, which includes a tool for low-touch automated VNF onboarding and verification. This tool would minimize lead time and expense and maximizes business agility.

The certification of standards activities with open source initiatives also is key. Service providers need a neutral third party to verify that the cloud stack components (VNF, NFVI, orchestration layers) all function as designed and follow industry standards. Service providers are converging on the importance of certified VNFs against reference implementations of NFVI to benchmark the VNFs. The existence of neutral, third-party labs lowers the barrier of entry for smaller VNF vendors and fosters innovation in the market.

"For service providers, NFV is both a daunting challenge and an exciting opportunity to achieve unprecedented technological flexibility, business agility and savings," said Richard Jacowleff, CEO, iconectiv. "Our new market brief identifies the path that service providers, vendors and standards bodies can take to eliminate key roadblocks-and move the entire industry forward."

To learn more about how service providers can use automation in the onboarding process to enable faster time to market, operational savings and more, download NFV information as a service making virtualization practical, simple and telco-grade here.

Published Thursday, October 17, 2019 6:45 AM by David Marshall
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