Network virtualization might be all the rage right now but it might not work for everyone, a group of industry experts said during a Thursday keynote panel at CCA in Fort Lauderdale.
Despite an industry push toward virtualized networks and cloud-based services, the panelists – who included experts from Huawei, Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson and Oracle – said it will be important for carriers to fully understand the technology and evaluate their individual needs before jumping in.
“Education will be important as more operators really look to understand what really makes sense for them based on their customers and the needs of their customers,” said Miguel Dajer, vice president of Huawei’s Wireless Access Lab, who also noted that hands-on learning will also be key. “At the end of the day it’s about understanding your business, what are your targets, your customers, your employees and picking something you need….to truly reap the benefits of this technology.”
According to the panelists, just because many components can be virtualized doesn’t mean they should. Though some components are well suited to virtualization, others can be delivered more effectively if left alone, the panelists said.
“Part of the pragmatic approach we try to take to this is to offer products in both virtualized format and non-virtualized format and see which one makes the most sense,” said Alcatel-Lucent vice president of IP and Optical for the American region James Tindall. “There’s certainly functions that lend themselves very well to virtualization, packet core, for instance. Control plane functions are very well suited for virtualization. Elasticity, the ability to apply resources to control plane problems in real time are a dramatic solution to problems. When I look at the data plan, however, that’s not quite the case. And here’s where you really need to look at what technology makes the most sense. Where you have a very heavy data plan component, sometimes virtualization is not the right answer or is not the optimal answer.”
When looking at network virtualization, the panelists said companies should also understand the implications the technology will have on their business, including the necessity to add new skill sets to manage and troubleshoot the network.
Though some difficulties may arise in making the transition, Ericsson’s North American CTO and Head of Strategy Glenn Laxdal said network vitalization has the potential to create a more personalized way to deliver services to customers and drive a new competitive reality.
“The reason why the operator base is starting to move down this path is both to get down the cost curve and to dramatically improve services,” Laxdal said. “The whole name of the game now is personalization of services….This ability to uniquely personalize a set of services very dynamically, very programmatically in the network without having an engineer set up and tear down the service for you so that it impacts everything, it starts with virtualization of the network resources, it starts with the implementation of software defining those resources so that I can set up and tear down services instantaneously and dynamically and services that are tuned just for you…and that’s what’s coming. If there are other operators that are moving forward with that capability then it becomes a competitive reality.”