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Network function virtualization (NFV) is poised to see a major spike in adoption in 2017 as several key open source technologies simultaneously mature.
The Danube release of the OPNFV framework is expected to occur later this year and will include integration with open source management and orchestration (MANO) frameworks such as Open Baton and Open-O, which is a project lead by The Linux Foundation. According to OPNFV Director Heather Kirksey, many of the OPNFV projects, including OpenDaylight, ONOS, OpenStack, Ceph, KVM, and Open vSwitch, also are starting to mature at the same time.
In addition to advancing the OPNFV project, The Linux Foundation also has launched another MANO initiative based on AT&T’s Enhanced Control, Orchestration, Management, and Policy (ECOMP). The operator formally handed off the project to The Linux Foundation in early February.
Kirksey says it obviously takes a fair amount of time for these projects to mature. But most people underestimate what it takes to coordinate the efforts of many different contributors, says Kirksey.
Next up, Kirksey says OPNFV expects to see the core technologies it has developed to be incorporated into multiple vendor distributions in much the same way Linux and OpenStack wind up being consumed by IT organizations. For example, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise (HPE) has an OpenNFV ecosystem in place that tests and validates NFV software based on the core technologies spearheaded by OPNFV.
In the meantime, Kirksey notes the pace of OPNFV innovation is already picking up. The group is working on NFV implementations based on containers that Kirksey says she expects will be widely deployed at the edge of the network.
“There’s a lot of interest,” says Kirksey. “We already have a project in place using LXC containers.”
In general, she views organizations that promote NFV training and education such as the Intel Network Builders program as a complementary effort. And she expects to see many more of these groups launch as vendors look to exploit opportunities created by NFV.
Kirksey says this year, most of the usage of OPNFV technologies will be limited to service providers. But once service providers harden those technologies she expects enterprise IT organizations will follow suit.
Accenture CTO Paul Daugherty says advances in networking such as NFV software are going to be necessary for creating new digital business ecosystems. The easier it becomes to extend virtual networks, the faster those ecosystems will evolve, he says.
“It all starts with the network,” Daugherty says.
It’s clear that there will soon be a direct correlation between the value of a digital business initiative and the number of network endpoints that enable it. In effect, there will soon be a digital business corollary to Metcalfe’s Law, which posits that the value of a network is proportional to the square root of users connected.
In the meantime, IT organizations would be well-advised to think less in terms of return on investment in network virtualization technologies. Instead, they need to view the modernization of their networks as a key enabler for becoming a digital business.