NFV to be pervasive by 2016/2017, says panel

NICE, France--There may be plenty of hype around Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV), but in the view of an expert panel of operators and analysts the process to virtualise certain elements of operator networks will be well underway in the 2016/2017 timeframe.

Speakers at this week's TM Forum Live conference, here, warned that NFV will be an incremental process rather than a "big bang", and this was also the view of Laurent Leboucher, vice president of APIs and Digital Ecosystems at Orange, who said the network should not be treated as a monolithic whole.

However, some functions "can be virtualized quite easily", commented Leboucher, citing functions such as the evolved packet core (EPC).

Leboucher does not underestimate the impact that NFV and software-defined networks (SDN) will have on operator organisations, and said both aspects will require a huge transformation in terms of processes and skills at the heart of an operator's business. For Orange, NFV is not just about reducing costs, however: it's about being more agile and having the ability to scale and implement change management extremely fast.

What will take time will be vendor interoperability and standardisation. As pointed out by Ken Dilbeck, TM Forum vice president of strategy, the development of standards is a bigger question and isn't here today. However, Dilbeck said the TM Forum is also supporting a "fail fast" approach to at least start the process and see what will actually work.

The panel also discussed which vendors would be the leading future providers of such virtualized technologies, and agreed that there would be a mix of traditional and start-up vendors, with software-oriented vendors set to play a significant role.

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