Telefónica exec emphasises need to avoid vendor lock-in with NFV

NICE, France--Pieces of the network functions virtualisation (NFV) puzzle are starting to fall into place, although experts working in this field stress that care must be taken to avoid repeating the situation with previous legacy equipment that saw operators tied to equipment manufacturers and faced with interoperability requirements that proved to be a barrier to competition.

Antonio Armengol, head of virtualisation strategy at Telefónica, told delegates attending the SDN & NFV 2014 summit here that the telco environment has some peculiarities that have made it traditionally different from the internet model, and that these differences include a closed vendor ecosystem and the artificial tying of software to hardware.

"We think this will change for the operators," said Armengol, who added that "softening" the hardware is one of the answers to the current problems that operators face. He said Telefónica is working on key open source projects such as OpenStack to avoid vendor lock-in, for example.

Armengol also noted that NFV brings with it the opportunity to build more "mouldable" and flexible networks that separate the function from the capacity, in order to manage capacity more efficiently. This helps foster competition, lowers barriers to innovation, and improves time to market, he added.

That in turn translates to a proper balance of NFV and software-defined networks (SDN), Armengol commented, where NFV represents software-defined network functions and SDN interconnects these virtual network functions.

Armengol said Telefónica--which is closely involved in the ETSI NFV ISG for generating the reference architecture for NFV--thinks NFV technology is ready, but believes more focus is needed to meet challenges including the avoidance of vendor lock-in and costly integration issues, while also achieving carrier-grade performance.

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