Cartesian report highlights challenges thwarting NFV adoption among service providers

Operational challenges and immature virtualized technologies are hindering NFV deployments among communications service providers (CSPs). That is at least the conclusion of a recent report titled “The Future of Networks: Dealing with transformation in a virtualised world” by specialist consultancy Cartesian.

The report consisted of over 40 interviews and an online survey with more than 100 respondents. The authors of the report reached out to decision-makers from telecom vendors, system integrators and CSPs. While 74% of respondents said operators must implement NFV and SDN to meet future customer needs, the report also found both technologies have, thus far, failed to live up to their initial hype. Several CSPs have found the implementation process harder than expected. Approximately 73% of respondents  said they were behind schedule implementing NFV and SDN, meaning only 27% were on or ahead of schedule.

“Despite the excitement around NFV and SDN, CSPs face a mammoth task,” said Steve Upton, senior vice-president of the Networks and Operations Consulting at Cartesian. “The operational complexity associated with any network transformation shouldn’t be underestimated and businesses are realising that there is still plenty of work to be done.” Upton added their are steps CPSs can take to maker their lives easier, such as developing a comprehensive NFV/SDN deployment plan, in addition to hiring partners capable of guiding them through the process.

The report also found 52% of CSPs felt the operational changes needed to transition to a virtualized network are overwhelming. For example, in many instances, introducing NFV and SDN demands new operating plans for end-to-end service management, meaning the operational process either has to be altered or re-written. In addition, uncertainty exists surrounding the extent to which vendors are responsible for identifying and resolving network issues, largely due to a lack of NFV distributed architecture and standardization in the industry.

“Multi-vendor environments create more complexity for vendors and CSPs,” said one respondent. “Local operations are used to dealing with a single vendor end-to-end. Now with NFV, they have a multi-vendor system to manage.”

Adding to these frustrations, 65% of respondents said updating legacy processes and systems to cope with NFV and SDN is creating a bottleneck, citing a lack of understanding about how to operate in a virtual environment as a key concern.

Achieving Interoperability was also found to be more challenging than expected. While the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) has drawn specifications for this task, one interviewer said such specifications do not go far enough. In some cases, the incomplete implementation of NFV specifications is thwarting interoperability testing.

In addressing these challenges in the short-term, the authors of the report advised firms to find ways of solving the technical and organizational problems that are stymieing adoption, especially in areas where external consultants and partners can be involved. In terms of the long-term, the authors concluded the onus is on the industry to work together to implement standards and boost the level of interoperability.

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