data center researchTelecompetitors are increasingly turning to software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV) in an effort to reduce the capital and operating expenditures associated with network and IT infrastructure, but broad scale implementation remains years away, according to a new report from Heavy Reading.

Conducting two surveys over the past six months, Heavy Reading analysts found that senior executives at network operators “believe SDN and NFV can help them cut both capex – using generic servers with high utilization – and opex – with real-time, automated OSS based on SDN – while also providing a better environment for new service creation,” Graham Finnie, Heavy Reading chief analyst and co-author of the “SDN & NFV: A Revolution in the Making” report, explained. “Many added that the key benefit of NFV would be shorter and easier product upgrade and replacement cycles.”

Nonetheless, it looks as though SDN and NFV’s full impact won’t be felt for some time yet. Just 13% of network operators surveyed expected SDN would ‘significantly impact’ the competitive landscape for Ethernet, IP and wavelength services before the end of 2014,” Finnie related.

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“The vast majority of respondents said that less than 10 percent of revenue would come from running these services on an SDN architecture in the next 18 months. However, 2015 is seen as the big transition year, with a significant revenue shift to SDN-based services starting then.”

Also among the report’s key takeaways:

  • Within operators, three distinct groups have a clear interest in NFV and SDN, but are not necessarily coordinating their efforts. These groups are cloud ICT, which often has the strongest interest in SDN; networks, which is focused mainly on NFV at present; and internal IT, which is hampered by a highly fragmented OSS legacy and telco IT’s “Cinderella” status.
  • Many operators believe they can get big savings from virtualizing network functions and deploying them on generic x86 hardware. However, there is also a widespread acknowledgment that some functions can’t yet be shifted to this kind of server. This remains a controversial area in the industry.
  • Initial interest in virtualization is driving some early trials and commercial deployments. However, mainstream commercial deployment of virtualized functions is unlikely to start before 2015 – or perhaps later, among more cautious operators.
  • Operators are prepared to consider start-up SDN/NFV suppliers. This is especially likely if their existing vendors don’t have a convincing roadmap for virtualization. However, existing suppliers will likely be preferred for core functions by many, and others will encourage ecosystems of established and start-up vendors.

 

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