SDN and NFV Drive Change, But Not Everywhere

Prayson Pate
Hands with car in them

SDN and NFV are driving massive changes in the telco world. But what are the biggest of these changes? And what’s not likely to change at all?

Five Biggest Changes

1. Closed Appliances Are Being Replaced With Software Running on Open Systems

This is the very definition of NFV, and it will have the biggest impact on telcos, their services and their suppliers. The decoupling of hardware and software will increase competition, lower costs, and open the door to innovation.

2. Services Will Be Developed and Deployed in Internet Time, Not Telco Time

The benefits of the cloud extend far beyond the move to virtualization. The biggest benefit may be the ability to increase the speed and reduce the cost of developing services. New services will be composed from components and integrated using open APIs, radically reducing the effort and cost of development. These new services can then be deployed without changing the network infrastructure.

3. Operational Silos Must Be Pierced, and Waterfalls Must Be Collapsed

Another benefit of cloud-centric services is the radical change in how services are developed. To realize these benefits, telcos must move from operational silos and sequential development (AKA “waterfall” because of the way Gantt charts appear) to Agile development and DevOps deployment methods. Doing so will impose the need to train, augment and reorganize telco staff.

4. OSS/BSS Systems Must Be Modernized

Telcos rely on their OSS/BSS systems to manage their networks and to bill for their services. The move to software-centric services will require massive changes to how network elements are deployed and tracked, how they are paid for, and how services are billed.

5. Telcos Will Treat Their Customers and Suppliers as Partners

Achieving true acceleration of services is more than delivering services fast; it means giving the customer what they want. Reducing the time to customer acceptance means working much more closely with the customer during the development process, and it means bringing the suppliers in also. All three groups must work as partners in a win-win-win fashion.

Three Things That Won’t Change

1. Tier 1 Telcos Will Be Slow to Adopt the Changes Listed Above 

A few of the tier 1 operators are showing the way, but even the leaders will need time to turn the ship. The shift in technologies offers an opening for smaller and nimbler operators to grab mind and market share.

2. Consumers Will Demand More for Less – And They’ll Get It

Telcos are caught in a vise between rising demands for bandwidth and competitive pressure to lower costs. The move to NFV and SDN is necessary to succeed in this environment, but it is not sufficient. Telcos will have to continue to optimize all aspects of the business.

3. Regulators Will Fall Further Behind

The radical speed of technology innovation has left regulators in the dust, and they won’t catch up. In fact, they will continue to impede progress by introducing regulatory uncertainty. One way they could be beneficial is to aggressively tackle tasks such as spectrum re-allocation to enable better and faster wireless access. Sadly, they will likely continue to pursue politically controversial regulations in the name of the consumer, regardless of the actual benefit (or lack thereof) of such efforts.

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