Yep, that's right. I said, "20-year journey."
At Light Reading's NFV and the Data Center event in Santa Clara, Calif., much of the talk focused on The New IP -- that is, the who, what, where, when and why of NFV, virtualization, SDN, openness and the rapid evolution affecting the telecom industry today.
But what made this event different in terms of discussion was that people were not obsessing over the question of "when" we could expect to see a fully virtualized, state-of-the-art network. The four-to-six-year question did not even come up -- shocking to those of us who have been at any number of events recently.
In fact, when Kelly Herrell, VP and GM, Software Networking, Brocade, pointed out that the new reality is that we are at the beginning of a "20-year journey," there was no thunderclap, no rumble from the earth (thank goodness, because it was California after all), and no one visibly flinched, as far as I could tell.
Perhaps it's finally starting to sink in that the change to a virtualized network will happen in stages -- edge first -- and that it will be a long process that will leave nothing unchanged.
It's true that in our hurry-up, fast-paced, get-everything-done-now lifestyle, the natural tendency to expect immediate change is real. Indeed, the huge boom in social, cloud, mobile and big data, coupled with the rapidly increasing number of users and apps, is driving today’s big networking changes and the need for on-demand networks and services.
This is where the telcos can learn from the computing industry -- something that Herrell corroborated in Santa Clara. "When you look at the compute industry, it's three times larger than the telecom industry, and it already went through what we are going through today," he said.
However, it's not just the telco network that will be affected by the evolution to a virtualized network. Data center operations and management will change as well, thanks to virtualization, apps, security, abstraction and more. Now you can start to see how four to six years quickly changes to 20 years. As Herrell said, "You can't make the complexity go away; you can only tame it."
Of course, humans are always looking for ways to tame things. I'm always trying to tame the Lego bricks piling up in the basement, for example. So the natural question is, how to tame it? One of the most interesting aspects of the birth of NFV has been its unique ability to pull everyone together to solve the challenges it brings to bear, through many working groups and organizations. But I'd like to hear from you. How do you think we can tame the complexity?
— Elizabeth Miller Coyne, Editor, The New IP