As new technologies continue to evolve, open network virtualization strategies are reshaping the telecom carrier ecosystem. The ongoing shift to cloud services and mobile internet technologies is driving service providers and their suppliers to improve their efficiency and agility.
By David H. Deans
According to the latest market study by International Data Corporation (IDC), network virtualization is set to revolutionize the telecom sector -- transforming the operational culture, as well as the fabric of legacy proprietary infrastructures that have, until now, dominated this industry.
Communication service providers (CSPs) and their vendors are embracing the demand for progressive network virtualization platforms - such as open-source software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV).
"Despite budget concerns and questions about the ability to execute on the network virtualization vision, CSPs, telecom vendors, and partners are all embracing potential opportunities," said Elisabeth Rainge, research vice president at IDC.
IDC believes that network virtualization for telecom represents some significant challenges, but the upside is extremely high. Moreover, while not everyone will reap the benefits of this transformation, IDC sees an evolution of digital infrastructure that is already underway.
During the first half of 2014, a series of announcements provided concrete evidence of the maturity of network virtualization. Because ongoing discussions emphasize the long-term visions for various new technologies, and the larger concept of network virtualization, a clear picture of the activities can be somewhat difficult to discern.
Meanwhile, vendors will resort to network function virtualization and software-defined network architecture to catalyze use cases - such as the voice over LTE (VoLTE) network evolution.
However, with the talk of moving away from a five-nines model in the name of service agility and flexibility, it remains to be seen whether and how NFV and SDN can ensure faster deployment while maintaining high standards of quality of experience.
Many existing CSP network elements, such as service provider routers, Ethernet switches, and packet optical switches, will transition over the next few years to become software-enabled and programmable with open, northbound interfaces.
IDC says that many networking vendors are already delivering their first generation NFV-based Virtual CPE solutions, and a number of leading CSPs will begin to launch commercial virtualized telecom services - beginning in late 2014.