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Operational issues are putting telcos off NFV, report claims

Telecoms operators and other comms services providers face roadblocks when it comes to network functions virtualisation, thanks to a range of operational issues, says consultant Cartesian

Telecoms operators and other communication service providers (CSPs) are holding back from deploying network functions virtualisation (NFV) because of mounting operational issues – despite a majority believing that those that do not virtualise their networks will struggle to compete in the future.

That is according to new research by specialist consultancy Cartesian, which found that many of the owners of the world’s largest and most complex network environments are dithering over taking full advantage of NFV and software-defined networking (SDN).

Research participants were awake to the potential of NFV, but as one interviewee said, the telecoms sector had fallen into the “trough of disillusionment” when it came to NFV, and would have to redouble its efforts in the coming years.

“Despite the excitement around NFV and SDN, CSPs face a mammoth task,” said Steve Upton, senior vice-president of networks and operations consulting at Cartesian. “The operational complexity associated with any network transformation should not be underestimated and businesses are realising that there is still plenty of work to be done.”

A total of 69% of respondents agreed that operators that did not virtualise their networks would have difficulty competing in the open market, and 74% agreed that implementing NFV and SDN was vital in order to meet future customer needs.

Many said they had already started their transformation efforts as they looked to exploit already-proven benefits such as greater network flexibility, reduced time to market and reduced lead times, more efficient operations, new service and revenue streams, and future capital and operational savings.

Nevertheless, the report – The future of networks: dealing with transformation in a virtualised world – revealed that the amount of operational change required to shift to a virtualised network was overwhelming for many CSPs – 52% said this was the case. Many said they were challenged in particular by the need to manage multi-vendor systems and hybrid networking environments during an often prolonged transition period.

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Others said the need to introduce new operating plans for end-to-end service management, which often means internal processes must be remade from scratch, was causing them problems.

“But there are steps that operators and CSPs can take to make their lives easier,” said Upton. “They should start by creating a comprehensive plan for NFV/SDN deployment and be sure to employ partners with the expertise to guide them through the process.

“The industry also has a role to play, as greater standardisation and multi-vendor integration would go a long way towards helping operators along their virtualisation journeys.”

Read more on Software-defined networking (SDN)