Service providers continue to implement network functions virtualization (NFV), but that's not to say the road to adoption is without challenges.
By the end of 2020, CSP investment in software-defined networks (SDN) and NFV will reach more than $18 billion, according to SNS Research. Orchestration platforms alone will represent more than $1.6 billion –- or almost 10% –- of operator spending, the research firm predicts.
While industry leaders have made strides in the NFV process –- from education to design to implementation –- even the biggest advocates agree that service providers continue to face challenges, both for internal adoption and customer engagement. But, many also concur, these hurdles will be relatively short-lived as service providers, vendors, enterprises and industry organizations work together to resolve technological issues such as interoperability, which is caused by an overabundance of software versions and competing or unintegrated standards that generate high costs and man-hours for NFV implementations.
"Many operators are still tripping over the questions of cost and scalability. I believe that the leaders in this space have or will soon solve these. There is still resistance from recalcitrant suppliers who won't embrace new deployment and commercial models," Prayson Pate, chief technology officer of Ensemble at Adva Optical Networking, tells the New IP Agency. "I see this situation changing significantly in 2017 as suppliers come to realize the tidal wave of NFV can't be ignored."
As vendors' technologies evolve around open source solutions, NFV implementations will become more interoperable, says Dilip Pillaipakam, vice president and general manager of service provider business at Infoblox, in an email interview. "The biggest hurdle for NFV adoption is the relative immaturity of the technology, particularly OpenStack," he says. "We expect this hurdle to get a little smaller next year as carriers get more comfortable with improving interoperability and stability."
In fact, adoption of proprietary systems will only get further squeezed by NFV, prompting even more adoption of virtualized solutions, suggests Larry Tam, managing director of Hong Kong and Macau at Brocade.
"In 2017 we can expect to see complete software-defined network infrastructure solutions that are commercially available, multi-vendor, based on a viable ecosystem of SDN and NFV components. Proprietary platforms will begin to feel uncomfortably closed as users realize the extent of their lock-in," he said. "And adoption will rise, beyond the early adopter service providers, as enterprises and private datacenters begin to see a manageable path to achieve the value of a flexible infrastructure."
— Alison Diana, Editor, The New IP Agency. Follow her on Twitter @alisoncdiana or @The_New_IP.