For telcos striving to manage growth and customer expectations, network functions virtualization (NFV) brings big promises of cost savings and agility. Red Hat’s Radhesh Balakrishnan, general manager of OpenStack & NFV, joined Metaswitch CTO Martin Taylor in a TelecomTV panel at this week’s Mobile World Congress to talk with TelecomTV’s Guy Daniels about industry interest in NFV, implementation strategies and what pitfalls to avoid.
While making the transition to NFV may feel a bit scary, it shouldn’t, according to Balakrishnan. “We now have tens of production deployments across the globe,” he said, pointing to Verizon North America, a Red Hat customer which has virtualized across five data centers, as an example. And with NFV implementations, telcos need to look at the long game. As with Verizon, he said those five data centers are “just the beginning of gaining confidence around adding more and more workloads.”
When looking at the notion of service agility, the risk of not exploring NFV at all may be the greater risk. “Without virtualizing the network functions themselves, you’re not going to be able to get to a level of service agility that’s needed to react to the pressures in the market,” says Balakrishnan.
For example, a new report by ACG Research shows a 50 percent reduction in TCO over a five-year period and a substantial improvements in both cost and speed for roll-out of new services when looking at an NFV deployment in an open architecture when compared to a tightly bundled platform.
During the panel, Balakrishnan and Taylor also discussed potential pitfalls to avoid when planning an NFV implementation, including:
- Approach the project holistically – every element of the “people, process and technology” triad is important.
- Learn by doing – don’t approach it too theoretically.
- Start with an easy use case that you can implement on a small scale, then learn from it and move toward a bigger implementation.
- Don’t take on a scope that’s too broad and ambitious, make sure it’s well-defined.
- From a results perspective, realize it’s going to be a little bit of cost savings and a little bit of agility at first. You’re building something bigger which takes time.
- Partner with vendors with a longer-term journey in mind.