Enterprises and Carriers in Sync with NFV

Sync with NFV

Historically, there’s always been tension between enterprises and carriers over equipment and servicing issues. But network functions virtualization (NFV) is providing more visibility into the network, giving enterprises greater confidence in what they’re paying for.

Back in 2009, a survey by consulting firm EY found deep skepticism among enterprise users regarding telecom service providers. More than half of those surveyed at that time would not consider telcos for IT help desk, business consulting or cloud services.

“Telcos face a tough challenge convincing enterprise customers they can be trusted providers of additional services beyond voice and data,” EY analysts concluded. Still, the analysts presciently observed that telcos held a trump card with their network expertise and stood to gain ground as demand increased for network services.

Now, as many companies look to roll out increasingly popular Software-Defined Wide Area Networks (SD-WANs), telcos are the preferred choice Network Computing reported, citing IDC survey data.

Adapting Quickly

What’s changed, clearly, is the wholescale enterprise shift toward cloud-based and virtualized IT resources. Alongside that shift, the telecom industry has moved toward software-defined network (SDN) technology that supports the virtualized enterprise infrastructure and ensures that carriers can adapt quickly to changing customer needs.

SDN “is the idea of separating the control plane of a network from the data plane that forwards network traffic,” Network World explains in a primer. “The goal of this disaggregation is to create a network that is centrally managed and programmable.”

Alongside SDN, carriers began developing NFV to abstract network services and allow them to be deployed across the network to servers built with industry-standard components. Instead of having to provision, ship and install proprietary network switches, carriers can now almost instantly provision the desired virtualized network functions (VNFs), such as firewalls, routers, WAN accelerators and other functions. NFV devices can now potentially host multiple VNFs.

AT&T predicts that VNFs, along with Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), will dramatically transform the building, deployment and consumption of network services.

“Under a new AT&T User Defined Network Cloud architecture, VNF components will be able to request and reserve bandwidth as needed using software-defined networking (SDN) controllers,” according to AT&T. “Those VNF software components will be made available and accessed through APIs and other event types presented through catalogs and repositories.”

With NFV, enterprises can potentially replace proprietary network appliances with software that is easily downloaded and deployed to industry-standard customer premises equipment. No more long waits for installations; no more delays holding off on implementing new network features while hardware depreciates.

“It’s clear that NFV/VNF frameworks will enable CSPs and enterprise IT to work more collaboratively,” asserts SDxCentral. Furthermore, says SDxCentral, “The good news is that as VNFs and NFV proliferate, a lot [of] visibility and capabilities will be provided at the network level. That in turn should make enterprise IT organizations more comfortable with service providers that are rapidly evolving into strategic business partners.”

That’s a dramatic turnaround from that 2009 survey. For more information on enterprise potential benefits from NFV, check out AT&T’s FlexWare implementation.