NFV not always exciting but essential: MEF’s Pitt

Los Angeles
MEF will host the MEF18 global networking event Oct. 29 to Nov. 2 in Los Angeles. (Pixabay)

There’s no doubt that 5G is driving the adoption of SDN and NFV, but that doesn’t mean NFV is necessarily going to be exciting for every operator.

That’s according to one of the early evangelists for NFV. Dan Pitt, senior vice president at MEF and former director of the Open Networking Foundation, has been a leading voice in the SDN/NFV movement.

“I think what 5G is doing is really driving the operators to say, ‘Well I need NFV and SDN not for their own sake, but I need it to make 5G practical,’” he said in an interview with FierceWireless.

5G is an accelerant for a lot of service providers that want to move to virtualization faster. Supporting the range of use cases and network slicing that 5G will bring requires more agility, and NFV can make it more economical.

RELATED: BT's McRae says NFV is 'unimpressive' but service models and automation are 'transformational'

Of course, not everyone is on the NFV cheering squad. BT’s chief architect, Neil McRae, recently told FierceTelecom that NFV has been an unimpressive technology for most of what BT’s trying to do, and he thinks it’s still got a lot of maturing to do. “If you ask me what's going to be the most transformational change in our industry, it's not SDN. It's not NFV. It's this model-based concept with telemetry and network automation. And yes, SDN and NFV are tools that help us with that, but actually they're largely unexciting," he said.

Pitt said there’s a difference between whether NFV is essential and whether it’s exciting. “It’s essential,” he said. “Is it exciting? Not particularly.” He makes an analogy to a car. Nobody buys a car because it’s got a great drive shaft, yet it’s essential in driving the car.

RELATED: Intel sees 2017 as inflection point for SDN/NFV

As operators “cloudify” their networks, they’re in some ways becoming more like IT companies than transmission companies, and there are companies, like MVNOs, that don’t do their own transmission, so to speak. As telecom operators become more software driven, more of what they’re doing will be virtualized.

It’s the services that operators create with NFV that are going to be exciting, but internally, “this is the plumbing,” he said.

5G is sure to be another big topic at the MEF 2018 conference, which takes place in Los Angeles Oct. 29 to Nov. 2; last year, more than 1,000 people attended. It’s an easy venue to get to for many around the globe, and in a good sign, the number of sponsors is running ahead of last year, Pitt said. Proof-of-concept proposals are already coming in and people are talking about ways to showcase their innovations. “I think we’re going to have a tremendous turnout,” he said.

Last month, MEF announced that the MEF 3.0 Transformational Global Services Framework achieved a significant milestone with the publication of two new specifications advancing the orchestration of MEF 3.0 connectivity services over multiple network technology domains. The new standards were developed within MEF’s LSO (Lifecycle Service Orchestration) Reference Architecture that many service and technology providers have embraced. The specifications are seen as important steps toward accelerating the delivery of orchestrated services over automated networks powered by LSO, SDN and NFV.