There was a lot of buzz around the state of NFV at the SDN and OpenFlow World Congress held in Dusseldorf last week. Both operators and vendors had a lot to say about NFV, but one thing was certain; going back to old way of deploying network functions using proprietary hardware is not going to happen. And although NFV is nearing its third birthday, according DTAG’s Axel Clauberg, it’s really going through puberty right now, which provided everyone in the audience a pretty good mental picture of where the technology was at this time. Some of the recurring points brought up in the conference included:

  • Interoperability – The lack of open interfaces is currently a barrier to NFV deployment and can lead to vendor lock-in and proprietary interfaces dictated by vendors. To some extent, the development of standards and adoption of open source in the MANO layer can curtail this, however, that didn’t necessarily mean all is well in that area. DTAG noted that there is a danger to parallel work going on between the Standards Development Organizations (SDOs), and BT said that they would abandon OpenStack in favor of proprietary approaches if the community did not fix some key issues including scalability, security and backwards compatibility with this technology for NFV.
  • Shared risk – The days where service providers would spend large amounts of upfront capital to deploy a service is over – at least that is what service providers hope. Telus envisions that as payments come in for services used by subscribers, compensation to Telefonica's OpenMano open source MANO platformvendors would be derived from that.
  • Management and Orchestration benefits - While several vendors were talking up their MANO offerings in the exhibit hall, Telefonica presented its OpenMANO which is an open source reference architecture implementation of the NFV Management and Orchestration (MANO) layer. MANO is playing a big role in helping operators realize the long term benefits of NFV.

If social media is any indication of how far along NFV has come, then it seems to be making progress. Prodip Sen, Director-CTO of NFV for HP, cited some Twitter stats on the buzz around NFV for 2015:

  • 6,000 people shared #NFV links in September
  • 33,840 NFV phrases and hashtags were used between January and October
  • 20,037 SDN phrases and hashtags were used in the same time frame

But, even with all the hype around NFV, there were some words of warning to not oversell the technical maturity of the “NFV movement.” Noel Foret, VP at Orange cautioned that overestimated near term NFV savings and having them not materialize could lead to cuts in investment.

And, while the technology continues to improve, what about the human side of the NFV equation? NFV will be extremely disruptive to the existing work flows operators currently employ in creating, managing, charging and delivering services to their customers. This theme is reaffirmed by a recent TM Forum survey that Jim Metzler cited in a Dialogic sponsored white paper, “NFV Applications – Key Considerations for Profitability” which indicated two of the leading business related inhibitors to the broad adoption of NFV are the need to reskill the employee base, and the need to make organizational changes.

TM Forum Study on inhibitors to NFV deployment

So, what do service providers say vendors should be doing when it comes to NFV? From the presentations I attended and the one-on-one discussions with service providers the message is to continue to “cloudify” your offerings because NFV will continue to gain momentum over the next few months. After all, how long does puberty last? Tell us what you think - tweet us your comments at @Dialogic.