May 5, 2016 — It seems that network functions virtualization and software-defined networking are starting the game without standards. Technology Business Research has published an interesting report that echoes some of the same concerns that I have expressed about 5G early adopters jumping the gun.
The report from TBR voiced some concerns about early adopter telecom operators moving forward with limited commercial launches of SDN and NFV technologies in spite of the fact that the standards around them are still very fluid.
What some of these vendors are doing is combining some proprietary hardware/software into solutions that have no basis in the standards being developed.
These early adopters pursue varied vectors of NFV and SDN solutions. For example, one solution uses an end-to-end NFV stack, leveraging products from several vendors. The equipment may or may not meet any standards and the end product is likely a Frankenstein concoction that will be resource and overhead heavy and piecemealed together. They are also not tested to see if they meet carrier-grade delivery.
NTT DoCoMo happens to be one of these carriers that is leveraging multiple vendors for its deployment. It became its own prime integrator for the move. They are one of the few carriers with the resources to pull this off. Most carriers do not have these same resources. Therefore, this approach may work but only for carriers with enough expertise to handle their own integration. Carriers without the resources will likely use a single vendor for their full NFV stack and wait until the standards are approved to ensure compliance with “multi-vendor and open source standards.”
On the deployment scene, TBR stated that most operators should begin some form of NFV or SDN deployment within the next two years. The launch vehicle is the ability to integrate with end-to-end operational and management systems, without which network management becomes problematic.