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Top 10 Take-Aways from the SDN & NFV 2014 Summit

by Simon Roach
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#1. Who are the SDN/NFV early adopters?

According to presenters, the telco industry is not the only early adopter of SDN/NFV. It seems the
financial industry and service providers are also big drivers. The technology cycle has been
conditioned by hardware and has favoured closed-vendor ecosystems in which software has
been artificially tied to hardware. There is a strong concerted effort to break away from the current
status-quo.

#2. No longer a case of “if”, but “when”.

In contrast to a year ago, there now seems to be considerable confidence in the ability of
virtualised software running on x86 platforms to deliver the response times and latency
normalisation required by critical real-time applications. One presenter outlined the optimisation
work they had carried out in reducing and normalising the latency of KVM from 300ms to 20ms.
Server technology is changing quickly and 80Gbit/s is doable today on x86 platforms.

#3. The number “five” is frequently cited.

A number of telcos expect one day to be able to drive down OPEX by a factor of 5 through
automation. But even if NFV is a more expensive option, it is an easier purchasing decision since
virtualised appliances can be licensed for say 3 months.

#4. More substance to the VNF’s is being considered.

There is much more substance and alignment as to which VNFs are being pursued. CG-NAT, FW,
IDS/IPS, CDN, IP VPN and BRAS are amongst the favourites.

#5. SDN or NFV in isolation?

Although technically possible, it is difficult to see SDN and NFV in isolation when viewed
holistically. SDN is the virtualization of the network, whilst NFV is the virtualization of network
appliances. Both are required if the vision of utility computing and thus the broad adoption of the
cloud operating model with all its dynamics is to become a reality for all.

#6. Six-Nines reliability?

It’s seems unrealistic for telcos to strive for “device level” six-nine reliability for each and every VNF. In contrast, there needs to be greater reliance on “system-level” resilience.

Machine-to-user traffic is dwarfed by machine-to-machine communications.

Both Facebook and Google presenters showed how the gap between the two is growing. Less than 0.1% of traffic goes out to internet according to Google.

#7. Machine-to-User traffic is dwarfed by Machine-to-Machine Communications.

Both Facebook and Google presenters showed how the gap between the two is growing. Less
than 0.1% of traffic goes out to internet according to Google.

#8. Biggest challenge

One of the biggest challenges for telcos will be cultural – making networks teams feel like software
teams. Adopting a software-centric mind-set will be a further challenge for those traditionally
focused on L2/L3.

#9. SDN/NFV as journey

There is broad acceptance that the adoption of SDN/NFV must be viewed as a continuous journey as opposed to a “big bang” switch over.

#10. Where is application centricity?

There is broad acceptance that the adoption of SDN/NFV must be viewed as a continuous journey
as opposed to a “big bang” switch over.

Whilst many operators have understood the benefits of SDN/NFV and are hugely engaged in the
“mechanical” process of softwarization, my impression is that their thinking is still deeply
entrenched in a bottom-up network-centric view of the world, resulting in them having to perform
complicated and unnecessary “hand-stands” in order to achieve their goals. Repeating the words
“application centricity” doesn’t necessarily mean you have it.

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