The network functions virtualization (NFV) movement shifts hardware costs from specialized network elements to standard gear. An NFV strategy to deploy new services has the potential to speed up development and deployment as well as reducing operational and hardware costs.
This technology wave is expected to result in many business strategy shifts, as cloud operators and traditional service providers use software on commodity NFV platforms to develop and deploy more services with scale and agility.
More Agile Business
Many service provider experts expect NFV, along with its cousin, software-defined networking (SDN), to bring about cultural change to the service-provider industry, as they adapt the information technology (IT) approach of the cloud providers and move towards a DevOps model, in which the development and operations departments work more closely together.
Using NFV data centers, services can be developed using operating platforms including open source and then connected to other platforms with open standards and application programming interfaces (APIs). This could result in more services being offered in the cloud using a customer-focused Web provisioning system, following the cloud model for enterprise software.
Automation and Speed
The NFV approach is also expected to increase programmability of the environment. The network can be built to be more adaptable for a wide variety of services, depending on resource requirements. This has led many service provider executives to speak of “cultural change” and a shift to more open development.
Some service providers are entirely re-tooling their business around NFV, building data centers with commodity hardware that can serve as a platform for a new generation of cloud services. For example, CenturyLink had built a 30,000-square-foot development center in Bellevue, Wash., which will serve as a hub for new technologies and cloud services, many of them based on NFV. Other major global service providers such as Telefonica and Deutsche Telekom have cited increase use of NFV, open hardware, and open source in developing new services.
NFV is also expected to spur service providers to change their operational models and strategies. As service providers move toward a DevOps-focused style, they will be required to migrate many legacy systems, including their operations support systems (OSS) and billing support systems (BSS), away from proprietary systems and to open systems.
As NFV strategies unfold, look for data-center and service providers to use APIs, open source, Web development, and open standards to build a new platform of interconnected, open software systems that provider more flexibility and visibility into operations as a whole.
With this approach, tasks such as provisioning, service orchestration, resource allocation, service assurance, inventory management, and security can be programmed into the network so that fewer manual interactions are needed. Most service providers see the potential to speed up their service delivery from weeks to days or even minutes with this new approach.