To improve profitability, time to market and performance, service providers and their enterprise customers want proven interoperability between disparate vendors' virtualization products, especially as these environments become more pervasive and sophisticated.
Tier 1 service providers such as AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) and Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT), as well as their small counterparts, are investing heavily in virtualization. By 2020, AT&T expects 75% of its network functions will be virtualized compared with 30% today, says Toby Ford, assistant vice president, Cloud Technology, Strategy & Planning at AT&T during his keynote at the Big Communications Event (BCE) in Austin last week.
Dynamics of the Network
AT&T's Toby Ford uses his Big Communications Event to discuss the dramatic network changes he's seen -- and led -- at the service provider.
And that means extensive testing, in large part to ensure interoperability between different vendors' products, adds Bryan Larish, chief IT and networks architect/engineer at Verizon, in an interview at BCE.
"When you go into the virtualized environment it adds a new twist to [interoperability], where you have more modular components and you need to test different kinds of interoperability," he says. "Figuring out how to do that interoperability testing between a virtualized function and the virtualized infrastructure is a really key piece of making sure that things are interoperable; as the virtualized infrastructure updates to new code, how does that interact with that virtualized function? How does that virtualized function get the resources it needs? Figuring out how to deconflict and test those things has been one of the key focus areas we've been looking at."
One for all?
Service providers may concoct their own secret sauces but many of the ingredients are the same – and that means CSPs around the globe repeat the same tests to ensure interoperability among virtualization vendors, Axel Clauberg, vice president of aggregation, transport, IP and fixed Access at DT, tells the New IP Agency (NIA).
BCE Hot Spot
The Live Demo area, hosted by the New IP Agency and partner EANTC, was a hub of activity throughout BCE 2016 in Austin.
"Basically everyone is doing the same things: Testing applications, are things interoperable and I think the NIA helps a lot by doing interoperability testing and by supporting us in doing forward-looking things in the fully automated testing [area] that we need to put into operation as well," he says. "I think there's tremendous value if the base checks are already done. We now need to develop this further. We need to move to a full continuous development, continuous automated testing life cycle."
Building a foundation
Today's virtualized telecommunications infrastructures are far from unsophisticated but tomorrow's virtualization plans incorporate more infrastructure, modules and components from a growing number of vendors, including specialized developers focused on specific opportunities or challenges, says Verizon's Larish. Knowing a vendor-agnostic organization has proven product combinations from a variety of vendors interoperable accelerates service providers' adoption of these leading edge or dedicated technologies, he says. After all, they are not expending resources to continuously test each update or new iteration of vendors' products for compatibility, Larish adds.
"There are going to be more pieces, things will be more modular. I think the more structure we can put around that environment -- whether it be specifying those interfaces and dependencies in a standardized way, whether it's external testing and certification -- that's only going to help. The number of dependencies could take things to a place where it becomes unmanageable very quickly," he says. "Certainly we're figuring out ways to manage that complexity in the near term but as the ecosystem grows, as the market grows, you want to make sure things stay in a place where it's still easy for service providers to deploy and test and get the new capabilities we want."
Several developer executives agreed.
Neither service providers nor customers -- or some developers -- want a return to proprietary, closed systems, Jim Ganthier, VP and GM of engineered solutions and cloud at Dell, says in an interview at BCE. It's imperative for vendors to partner on interoperability, standards and open source, among other factors, to speed time to resolve customer problems and meet opportunities, reduce costs and lower support expenses, says Ganthier.
"You can't fight it," he says. "Let's actually go out and enable it."
By working together, developers ease the burden on service providers, notes Sanjay Bhatia, vice president of solutions marketing and strategy at Genband, in an interview.
"Service providers have a lot of things they need to do to enable virtualization; the last thing they need is another task," he says. "Interoperability is extremely essential."
— Alison Diana, Ambassador, The New IP Agency
. Follow her on Twitter @alisoncdiana