The expected impact of SDN and NFV on the telecom world is clearly reflected in the proliferation of efforts by many traditional telecom groups and standards development organizations (SDOs) to create specifications and roadmaps for one or the other .
The result is a sometimes confusing array of initiatives that has some service providers grumbling that it's impossible for them to support every group given the limits on their resources. The potential result is vendor-driven efforts that could do more to muddy the waters of virtualization than make them flow smoothly.
In a recent conversation I had with Steven Wright, the AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) exec who heads the NFV originators, the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) NFV Industry Specifications Group, I asked him about such concerns. While agreeing most companies do have limited resources, Wright said it is important that service providers have broad participation in the NFV specification process because the impact of NFV will be so broad. (See ETSI's NFV Group Staying True to Its Purpose.)
In fact, Wright noted, it's important that virtualization and the process of developing NFV in particular is understood by a variety of experts.
"Most of the operators have some level of engagement in various other industry bodies, depending on their business interests," Wright says. "Typically, that is different personnel involved in different committees -- you may have your management experts at TMF and your wireless experts at 3GPP. But in the case of NFV, this sort of transformation to horizontal layering means that it is not a matter of getting virtualization experts to learn about management and wireless guys, it's getting the management and wireless guys to understand how virtualization impacts them. And then scale that out so we end up with compatible solutions across all the different field of applications where we need virtualization to apply."
That reality is why it's hard to immediately dismiss the various efforts that are blooming today -- all may, in fact, play a critical role at some point. That said, the best of these groups will be the ones that are the most clearly focused on specific end goals and the most service provider driven.
I think it will fairly quickly become apparent where "bandwagon" efforts are in play, and these will likely fade. But this week's The New IP poll asks for your opinion on this topic and I'll be interested to hear what you think.
— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading