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How NFV Will Turn Telcos into Supercharged Software Telcos

Q&A with Rich Tehrani, TMC CEO & Software Telco Congress Conference Chairman

How do the newly published ETSI NFV specifications alter the market?

ETSI should be commended for publishing detailed documents and specifications regarding network functions virtualization in a rapid fashion. These documents go into a great level of detail regarding how NFV can benefit carriers and consumers by allowing more effective sharing of resources across carrier networks. In other words the carrier network function islands which we are accustomed to today can now be interwoven, meaning one carrier can decide to place resources outside their traditional footprint in order to provide more responsive service, better QoS etc.

In addition, these specifications describe how carriers can grow their revenue by providing virtualized-services to their enterprise customers by placing solutions in the customer's cloud. By providing virtualized customer equipment, carriers will be able to cost-effectively compete with OTT cloud-communications vendors more effectively.

Most importantly we see the evolution of NFV from concept to numerous and detailed implementation scenarios. This body of work will act as a significant resource in helping telcos become software telcos.

What is the focus of Software Telco Congress?

The most powerful trend in computing in the last decade has been a movement to the cloud which has been amplified by the ability to virtualize servers, software and networks making computing more efficient and flexible. The simple concept of cloud-bursting has allowed IT directors to scale software easily, handling computing peaks without having to purchase the maximal amount of computing resources up-front. You can't burst a legacy Class 4 or 5 switch. You can't burst telco equipment which is based on proprietary hardware. The communications service providers of the world have been looking at their IT departments and wondering why they can't achieve the same cost-effective scale and efficiency in their network operations. Moreover, the threat from OTT has never been greater and these vendors do take advantage of these efficiencies. You simply cannot compete with the new breed of telco competitors if you don't move as much of your legacy hardware to software as possible. It won't happen all at once but then again the move to VoIP didn't happen overnight but the carriers who timed it right leapt ahead of the laggards.

What does NFV mean to carriers?

It is the holy grail of flexibility, cloud bursting and leveraging the efficiencies of off-the-shelf servers in one perfect mix. Google's architecture was designed to run on standard PCs while the competition used large UNIX servers which cost orders of magnitude more. Google had a much better ROI on their spend because they used software to deal with the fact that their hardware would have more faults. NFV means carriers can slowly move their network functions to standard servers running chips based on Intel, AMD, ARM or whatever else makes sense for them. Imagine the cost savings – the ability to have more control… Everything that has kept the telecom world isolated from reaching the full potential of Moore's Law will disappear all at once as telcos become software telcos.

What is the opportunity?

Massive – huge – incredible – I haven't seen an opportunity in the telco ecosystem space this big since 1998 when I launched Internet Telephony Magazine and subsequently watched circuit switched products become legacy thanks to packet-switched. This exact sort of transformation is going to happen again. I truly believe the laggards could find themselves disrupted out of business because if they can't control their costs. The OTT providers and other competitors know this and are certainly not slowing down their assault.

What is the main difference between NFV and SDN?

NFV allows network functions to run on COTS servers while SDN allows networks to be controlled via software – these are complementary technologies which don't need to be implemented together but when they act in synergy it's like chocolate and peanut butter – if you're into that sort of thing. Point being, the more control you have in software the better.

Why is the move to software such a major impact on the carrier industry?

1) Cost is a major driver here because carriers have margin pressure due to massive amounts of traffic on their networks they can't always monetize. Video for example is becoming a huge bandwidth hog and the rates of growth continue to demand more hardware to handle it all.
2) Flexibility is something most carriers don't have in the networks because they depend on proprietary hardware with fixed functions – machines that cannot grow beyond what they were envisioned to do at the outset. Sure, this is changing but the more carrier functions which can be virtualized, the more which can be scaled immediately into private and public clouds.
3) Competition: Don't underestimate the ability for new entrants to enter the market with a limited footprint hoping to burst into the cloud to accommodate growth. How do you compete with such a player? You start virtualizing your operations first.

What are some of the immediate steps carriers can take to stay ahead of the NFV curve?

Follow TMC's NFV Zone site and come to Software Telco Congress – this event is one of the must-attend places the industry will gather to discuss this tremendous shift in the market.

Keynote Presentations by Top Companies

Adtran * Alcatel-Lucent * Cisco * Genband * IBM * Lemko * Metaswitch * Saisei

Important Discussions, Unlimited Networking, Unbelievable ROI

Register online or contact Frank Coppola at 203.852.6800 ext 131. Special pricing applies to resellers.

Adtran Alcatel Lucent Metaswitch
GENBAND Saisei Sansay
Lemko Netronome
Aculab Pota One
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