THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Come on, come on, let’s work together. That was the message Vodafone’s new head of network virtualization gave to vendors during today’s keynote at the SDN and NFV World Congress. And he didn’t just mean “work together with Vodafone.” He especially meant “work together with each other.”
Vodafone’s new head of network virtualization, SDN and NFV, Fran Heeran, talked about the company’s transformation from legacy networks to virtualized networks.
“From transport to customer experience, we are rebuilding our networks and applications to be more componentized,” Heeran said. “Vendors would, in the past, package hardware and software together. In this horizontal world, we’re splitting that. The bundling and selling of vertical silos won’t work anymore.” He said vendors need to ask themselves how to shed their old business models, and fast. He encouraged them to embrace the new business opportunities emerging in conjunction with virtualization.
Heeran joined Vodafone only three months ago. He stepped into the roll left by David Amzallag, who has since started working for a couple of companies as a strategic advisor: Radcom and Sedona Systems.
Vodafone’s SDN and NFV effort is internally named Project Ocean. Amzallag, last year, said it involves about 60 operators that are either owned in whole or in part by Vodafone.
In general, Vodafone has been pretty secretive about the project. We know that it selected Nokia’s Nuage Networks software-defined networking (SDN) as part of a group-wide effort to virtualize Vodafone’s data centers around the globe. It also chose Mirantis to provide OpenStack-based virtualization infrastructure management (VIM).
VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger said during the company’s last earnings call that VMware scored a “huge win” with Vodafone as a new network functions virtualization (NFV) customer. “We just signed our largest-ever telco deal with Vodafone,” he said.
Aside from these three vendors, Vodafone hasn’t said who else it’s working with on virtualization. But given the vast size of its operations, there are probably lots of vendors.
Vendor Collaboration Requested
At today’s event, Heeran said, “We are putting in place common infrastructure — a carrier cloud into which we put our software functions. We’re looking to build a common architecture from the core all the way to the edge.”
Similar to other operators building telco clouds, Vodafone wants virtualized compute resources, and it does not want any proprietary network hardware.
“A lot of fundamental tech challenges have been solved,” said Heeran. “But there are some things to be solved in conjunction with our partners in the vendor community.” He listed service assurance across many operators; service lifecycle management; and software license management and compliance for dozens of vendor-provided functions.
Heeran said Vodafone needs vendors to work together to deliver service level agreements (SLAs) across many networks and many vendors’ products.
“To the vendors I would say, we’re going to have to come together more than we currently are,” Heeran said. “I understand your reluctance across the industry to embrace competitors. But you’re going to have to work together closer than ever before. We need to understand how collaboration will work to deliver SLAs to our customers.”