Playbook notes NFV deployment challenges and strategies for moving forward

Openwave Mobility, a data plan management solutions provider for the telecom industry, recently published its “NFV Playbook,” highlighting some of major hurdles facing NFV deployment and lessons for moving forward. According to the playbook, NFV deployments are more complex than originally conceived by the industry, with several issues that still need to be resolved.

“As with any new technology, there are teething problems and NFV is no different,” said John Giere, president and CEO of Openwave Mobility. “Some operators have sacrificed innovation, others are struggling with new forms of “vendor-lock-in,” while some are already experiencing NFV silos.”

One challenge hampering implementation concerns financial misalignment. One of the main reasons service providers choose to adopt the technology is to bring down long-term costs. However, according to the report, the majority of an operator’s budget is capital expenditure at (CAPEX) at about 80 to 90%. This is misaligned with a cloud model, which is a pure operational expenditure (OPEX). Due to this, the authors of the report advise operators pay more attention to managing their case processes, capex budget distributions across traditional business units, and opex consequences.

As previously noted, vendor lock-in was an unfortunate trend the playbook found permeating the industry. Many network equipment providers (NEP) will intentionally try to lock-in operators by pushing NFV managers they developed to operate in isolation. The authors said current infrastructures provided by NEP’s have yet to reach a level of maturity that allows operators to purchase infrastructure from multiple vendors.

Interestingly, the report also discovered the agility and innovation promised by NFV have fallen by the wayside. “Agility and innovation have seemingly exited the conversation when it comes to the pragmatic reality of implementing NFV,” wrote the authors. Instead, cost-cutting is the main advantage driving NFV. Although the financial benefits of NFV are to be enjoyed, the authors of the report advise operators to keep innovation and agility at the forefronts of their minds given how unforgiving subscribers can be with respect to network downtime and poor user experiences.

Moving from challenges facing the industry, the report marked some areas that NFV is good for currently.
These included leveraging the technology for SD-WAN, virtual customer premises equipment (vCPE), SDN controllers for vIMS and vEPC, OSS processes, and new agile processes for service creation and user controlled service activation.

Ending on a positive note, the authors of the report suggested that operators are assessing their returns on specific virtual network function (VNF) use cases, expecting to spend over 70% on VNFs and 30% on NFV infrastructure.

“As a result of this, large NEPs are working with specialist software vendors to develop VNFs. In some cases, NEPs even provide funding for operators to deploy VIMs. Their goal is to recoup costs and make a profit over a five-year horizon, hoping that operators deploy more VNFs and secure new revenue streams.”

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