The year ahead for NFV

Prayson Pate
People standing

It’s that time again! Here are some predictions for NFV in the coming year.

M&A in the SD-WAN space

We’ve already seen acquisitions in this space over the last couple of years:

  • August 2017: Cisco acquires Viptela
  • December 2017: VMware acquires VeloCloud
  • November 2018: Oracle acquires Talari (announced)

Let’s set aside the big guys like Nokia Nuage and Citrix. That leaves players like Silver Peak, Versa, CloudGenix, and perhaps Riverbed. This space is still too crowded, and I predict that at least one acquisition will take place in 2019.

Edge cloud on uCPE

“Edge” and “edge cloud” are hot terms right now. I believe that a natural implementation of edge cloud is the hosting of customer applications on uCPE. Service providers can deploy uCPE for the purpose of providing communications services (SD-WAN, VPN, managed router, managed security, etc.) and apply unused resources to providing a managed local cloud for the subscriber. The benefits? Additional revenue for the operator and simplified IT infrastructure for the end user.

NFV in the enterprise space

The edge cloud on uCPE is an example of managed NFV providing services to enterprises. What I mean in this prediction is that enterprises will start to deploy NFV in their own networks. They will do so for the same reasons that service providers are using NFV:

  • Breaking the single-vendor silos
  • Ability to use generic servers for hosting
  • Power to innovate without changing the network equipment
  • Leveraging cloud technologies to build their communications infrastructure

I believe that the initial enterprise deployments will be mostly static, i.e. a stack of appliances will be replaced by a server with a fixed lineup of virtual network functions. However, this initial deployment will provide a basis for realizing the benefits of NFV listed above.

Phase 2 of NFV deployments

Operators like CenturyLink and Telefónica have been talking about NFV deployments for years. However, these deployments were limited, single-vendor and mostly static. We’re now seeing the second wave of deployments by operators like Verizon and Colt. These second phase deployments are bringing the true value of NFV, with dynamic deployment of multi-vendor systems at scale. We’ll see a lot more of this in 2019.

More focus on security

We heard a lot about security threats this year. The noise will increase next year for several reasons:

  • The introduction of more and more IoT devices raises the specter of more DDOS attacks
  • Continuing security breaches will keep grabbing headlines
  • New regulations like GDPR raise the stakes for data protection
  • Shared infrastructure (as with the edge cloud example above) gives many operators the willies!

Service providers feel that a move to NFV and open software-based infrastructure increases their exposure to these threats. That may be partially true. But the good news is that NFV provides new tools for addressing these threats and concerns. Expect to see more discussion on this topic next year.

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