The sheer number of NFV standards and open source groups popping up like dandelions in springtime has created confusion and conflict of opinion across the industry: Are there too many groups? Will any of the groups make progress? Is there a bandwagon effect? The New IP tackled all of these questions and more in the latest poll, "Open Source Overload," and the results are in, with 28% of poll respondents saying, "Yes, groups are jumping on the bandwagon, with their own interests in mind."
While it seems like The New IP readers might have gone for obvious choice for the number one spot on this poll, what's most interesting is the number two pick: "I really don't know yet," which took 21% of the vote. This shows that our voters are either taking a wait-and-see approach, or are throwing their hands up in frustration, or both.
Even more interesting is that it's not just The New IP readers that "don't know." Heavy Reading's senior analyst, Caroline Chappell, reports that she is seeing the same results on her recent service provider surveys. "The 'don't know' is always about a third of any sample," she says. "It goes up to a half when it's something like orchestration."
The reason behind this is likely a result of confusion, which perhaps not surprisingly showed up in our poll results with, "Yes, and they are creating confusion, not making progress," coming in third on the poll with 16% of the vote. I think everyone can agree that there is certainly a lot of confusion, however Chappell says this is to be expected due to a very early market which is facing an unprecedented amount of change very quickly.
"The concepts are very alien," she says, adding that there is confusion on both the IT and networking side. "If you are talking about NFV concepts, there is a certain amount of socialization of those concepts on the IT side, but even on the IT side there is a lot of talk about the need to make changes in IT operations, to change the culture and mindset of IT." This is significant because whereas the networking side of the industry is typically thought of as needing a mindset change, it turns out "it's hard stuff for the IT people as well," she adds.
"We are taking a tsunami of technologies into the networking world cold," says Chappell. "As a result, although those of us who have been looking at the market for the past couple of years have gotten used to the concepts and understand them, it's like an onion. Each time you peel away a layer, there are more layers and more things to get your head around. It's overwhelming."
The "maybe" and "no" selections on the poll nearly tied in the vote. Taking a close fourth on the poll with 14% was, "Maybe there does seem to be a bandwagon effect," followed closely by, "No, NFV is such a broad area, the more the merrier in getting work done," with 12% of the vote. "No, they are each working on a different aspect of a complex standard," took 9% of the vote.
As for the "more the merrier" angle of the responses, Chappell agrees that more is better in times of great innovation. "I can appreciate the service provider's point of view that the feel they've got limited resources and they feel, 'oh my goodness, where do I put these resources,' but at the same time, we've got to look at the long picture here. This is a time of extraordinary innovation and we cannot lock down that innovation too early."
Locking down innovation too early will hinder any benefits so she supports the groups' ability to drive creativity. "We've got to give innovation a long leash in order to get all the benefits and creativity we can out of it," says Chappell.
When it comes to the standards groups themselves, Chappell says it's time for clarity and change. First, there needs to be a clearer understanding of which groups are actually "standards" groups, "ETSI NFG is not a standards group," she says. "It's really a talking shop to try and get some terminology markers in the ground. They have never said they are going to standardize anything."
In addition, she advocates changing the traditional standardization process and a shift to "agile alignment" instead of standardization to avoid getting "bogged down in the detail of standardization."
Ultimately, the industry needs to recognize that innovation is "really hard to deal with but it's a good thing," she says. "As a service provider you can't avoid being actively innovating, otherwise you are going to be at the mercy of me-to technology and not differentiate."
For this week's new poll, I'm asking readers how they think net neutrality and Title II will affect The New IP. Check it out and vote today. (See Net Neutrality, Title II and The New IP.)
— Elizabeth Miller Coyne, Editor, The New IP