NFV requires gradual approach, not 'rip and replace,' according to HP exec

NICE, France--Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV) is a core focus of this week's TM Forum Live conference here, but those working towards the virtualisation of operator networks are under no illusion that this is going to be an easy transformation for operators.

"NFV is now not a matter of if but when, but we have to be pragmatic," observed Massimo Fatato, Worldwide OSS domain business lead at Hewlett-Packard Enterprise Services. "We cannot afford a 'big bang'."

NFV requires digging right down into the roots of telecoms networks that have existed for decades, said Fatato. Operators have no option but to follow this path if they wish to stay agile and competitive enough to meet the growing challenges from other players on the market such as over-the-top (OTT) providers, but Fatato warned that NFV is deeply transformational and risky for operators.

Even before talking about the changes to infrastructure itself, operators will have to address new requirements at their organisational levels: "New skill sets will be required," said Fatato, adding that a greater mix of IT and network expertise among networking teams will be needed.

"NFV promises greater agility, elasticity and flexibility," said Fatato. "But first operators need a management approach that runs at the same speed."

Although many operators may regard the path to NFV as filled with obstacles, Fatato said he prefers to talk about challenges that can be met only if the industry works together as a whole. "NFV should be seen as a catalyst...a compelling event to transform OSS."

Indeed, HP stressed that its efforts are all based on the ETSI framework for NFV. The TM Forum has also just introduced a new programme called Zero-touch Orchestration, Operations and Management program (ZOOM), which seeks to address the management and orchestration of NFV.

According to Fatato, the industry needs to take iterative steps to bring NFV into OSS on a gradual basis, rather than "rip and replace".

"We need to work together as an industry to support CSPs to stay competitive and cope with their challenges," he stressed.

For operators, the benefits are more than just savings in opex and capex, said Jeff Edlund, CTO of HP. Although savings here can be impressive, with Edlund citing opex savings of up to 35 per cent and capex of 35 per cent to 50 per cent, "the real benefits are business agility and accelerating time to market".

Ultimately, Edlund sees the industry heading towards a "network cloud" with carrier-grade NFV from 2016 and beyond.

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