SDN World Congress 2016: Thoughts on NFV Evolution, Standards, Challenges

Posted: October 20th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Events | Tags: , , , , | Comments Off on SDN World Congress 2016: Thoughts on NFV Evolution, Standards, Challenges

Greetings from SDN OpenFlow World Congress 2016, after a busy week when the entire industry came together to discuss, present and exchange views on SDN and NFV. Our industry is confronting perhaps its biggest-ever evolution – the transition to software-defined networks – and this event was a great place to discuss the implications. At the show, we got further insights into NFV/SDN proof of concepts and field trial experiences, but we also learned about several existing commercial launches in the areas of vCPE, vEPC, vIMS and vCDN. Without a doubt, many operators are moving past the trial stage and are deploying SDN and NFV in the real world. SDN World Congress

Running from 10-14 October in the World Forum in The Hague, Netherlands, Layer 123’s SDN World Congress brought together more than 1,600 industry experts. The event’s main message was simple: more industry players than ever are looking into NFV and SDN, and they are part of a tremendous journey that will change the industry fundamentally and forever.

It Always Comes Back to The Customer

Customer needs are changing rapidly, with a strong preference toward digital-first experiences. You can thank the influence of over-the-top (OTT) cloud service providers for that. Unsurprisingly, a lot of talk at the event was about delivering a superior customer experience through a more agile and elastic network environment. SDN and NFV are not goals to be achieved, but rather the means to service transformation to better the personal customer experience.

But, SDN and NFV are about more than technology evolution; they represent a paradigm shift that will change how future operators and businesses will work. Technology is a big part but people, processes and organisation are even bigger. The business case-led way of thinking and working is growing stale, as it’s unrealistic to build a “business case per network function” as we’ve learned in dusty old presentations about network management.

The Multivendor-Proof Network Eliminates Vendor Lock-In

We heard a lot about the idea of vendor interoperability, or what is described as building a multivendor-proof network. This characteristic is a must-have, since avoiding vendor lock-in is one of the biggest benefits of NFV and SDN technologies. These benefits exceed the traditional single-vendor network approach in every sense.

SDN World Congress Of course, it won’t be easy to create a multivendor-proof network. It will require technology standardisation, cooperation, open source principles and set of defined interfaces: APIs. But it’s clearly the way the industry is headed, and the only way we will achieve the full benefits of virtualisation technology.

Standardisation Enables Multi-Party Cooperation

There was plenty of talk about the key role standardisation will play. Organisations like MEF Forum, Open Source MANO (OSM), the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), OPEN-Orchestrator (OPEN-O) and the Open Networking Foundation (ONF) are leading the way. Comptel is involved in several of these groups, each of which focuses on its individual areas of expertise while encouraging collaboration, information sharing, discussion and debate. Ultimately, standardisation is advancing the multi-vendor and open-for-all approach to network design in acknowledgement of the desire for interoperability.

The nature of cooperative work within our industry is changing given this emphasis on multivendor networks. NFV and SDN are bringing companies together, leading to the creation of industry blueprints, proof of concept trials, and field experiments. Comptel is already involved in several, in fact.

The Network Automation Cycle

Many industry players at the event underlined the importance of automation and orchestration, driven by real-time analytics that rely on data and closed-loop processes to improve customer experience. They also advocated end-to-end seamless orchestration across new virtual and established services.SDN World Congress

“Operations are the elephant in the room,” as one analyst aptly described significant operational concerns. Centralised and coordinated control and orchestration are the key assets that allow digital service lifecycle management in a hybrid network environment. The “orchestrator of the orchestrators” will be the enabler by providing a holistic, end-to-end view the dynamic digital services in multidomain networks.

There’s No Doubt: NFV/SDN Will Happen

NFV is going to happen; there’s no lack of confidence in the actual value of the technology. Of course it’s worth keeping in mind that it’s still early days for NFV, which remains an immature technology before standards become clear and stabilised.

The switch to virtualisation is both a technology and business challenge but even more it’s about culture, people, processes and trust. The true value of virtualisation comes back to the customer: you and me. At the end of the day, successful transformation will be about education, experimentation and strong relationships.

Network virtualisation will be a hot topic at Nexterday North 2016, which runs from 28-29 November in Helsinki. Register now to reserve your spot at the show.


Comptel Joins Intel Network Builders to Help Further Define NFV and SDN’s Future

Posted: February 4th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Industry Insights | Tags: , , , , | Comments Off on Comptel Joins Intel Network Builders to Help Further Define NFV and SDN’s Future

By Daniel Tyrode, Strategic Product Manager, Comptel

Comptel has been closely following the development of both network function virtualisation (NFV) and software-defined networking (SDN) through multiple forums, events and initiatives. As my colleague Stephen Lacey wrote recently, we decided to lend our voice to NFV and SDN standardisation by joining the European Telecommunications Standards Institute’s (ETSI) NFV specialisation group in 2014.

At the same time, we explored an industry-led initiative to contribute to NFV and SDN’s future, with the idea of accelerating innovation. The Intel Network Builders (INB) program looked to be a perfect fit, and we are pleased to share that late last year, Comptel officially became an INB member organisation.

Why the INB?

INB serves as a cross-industry platform for collaboration between more than 100 communications service providers (CSPs), software vendors and hardware manufacturers within the NFV and SDN ecosystem. The INB’s goal is to leverage the collective experience of its member organisations, to identify ways to make NFV and SDN infrastructure easier to build and operate.

A key advantage for the INB is that its members are able to innovate and find solutions much more quickly than a typical standardisation body. The INB’s work is intended to support – and not negate – the efforts of organisations like ETSI by implementing short- and mid-term solutions that may later influence hard-and-fast standards.

Our interest in joining INB stemmed from recognition that new market pressures are changing telecommunications faster than the industry can manage. Competition is coming from all sides, including major cloud vendors who are edging their way into the market and putting pressure on traditional telecoms players to innovate.

We knew there was an opportunity for Comptel to contribute solutions, as we have a unique view of NFV and SDN infrastructure challenges that few others possess.

How Comptel Contributes

Comptel’s innovative service orchestration stack offers a complete end-to-end view of NFV and SDN, which provides an important foundation to orchestrate and manage end-to-end services. While many in INB focus on finding solutions to back-end infrastructure challenges, few focus on how NFV and SDN will impact the customer experience at the same time.

Comptel has an interesting value proposition for both sides of the equation. On the back end, our order management, mediation, analytics and policy control solutions can all be run as network functions on virtualised hardware, while our Service Orchestration (SO) Configure Price Quote (CPQ) interface work gives us a perspective into how customers will order and provision the new services that software-based functions will enable.

This holistic view and the strength of our proven, end-to-end product portfolio is what appealed to INB organisers when we showed our interest in membership.

The Advantage for Operators

We are excited to develop partnerships with our peer INB groups and have identified a number of intriguing proofs-of-concept that we believe offer potential for NFV innovation, particularly in the area of service orchestration automation.

Comptel customers should likewise be excited, because collaborative efforts like INB are a boon to operators that desire faster access to flexible and cost-efficient solutions. No one company has all the answers, but through the INB framework, key players in the telco market have an opportunity to drive some of the blueprints for NFV and SDN implementation. Better still, the INB enables quicker speed-to-market for the type of innovative solutions that will change the industry forever.

Visit our SDN/NFV Resource Library to learn more about how cloud and virtualisation technology helps operators unlock cost savings, enable flexible networks and compete on a higher playing field.

Come and see it in practise at Mobile World Congress 2015. Comptel will be located in Hall 5 at Stand 5G40. Email comptel.marketing@comptel.com to pre-arrange a meeting.


When Refrigerators Talk: The Role of Telcos in the Internet of Things

Posted: July 30th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Industry Insights | Tags: , , | 2 Comments »

Telecommunications is at a crossroad. The demand for data is reaching unprecedented levels and there’s no sign that it’s going to be slowing down. In fact, in the very near future, our refrigerators may be using just as much data as our phones.

Olaf Swantee, the CEO at EE, recently wrote that this era of connected living will soon usher in smart homes, wearable tech and a multitude of other connected gadgets, leading to an explosion in connected touch points that need to be managed by communications service providers (CSPs). At Comptel, we couldn’t agree more. The question, then, is: how will telcos adapt to this new reality?

What will the world look like when our cars are talking to our coffee machines and synchronizing with our cloud-stored media or our refrigerators are updating our shopping list apps in real-time? What will the world look like when, as Google CEO Eric Schmidt predicts, the entire world is online?

The rapid proliferation of touch points and the amount of new and varied applications they bring will drive the need for increased agility and cost-effective growth in infrastructure, operations and management processes. The true era of connected living is dovetailing with another technological revolution: software-defined networking (SDN) and network function virtualization (NFV).

The Adaptability Game

The introduction of SDN technology will offer CSPs ways to operate an expanse of digital services at break-neck speed. The flexibility to build and host applications in the cloud will add to the ability to react quickly and roll out supporting features for new services.

This kind of adaptability will be crucial in a connected economy. With so many more touch points in the mix, operating across a wide spectrum of use cases, CSPs will need to be able to smoothly manage policies and bandwidth alike. A single user’s data plan could soon encompass not one or two devices, but twenty, thirty or fifty. How would a data plan for a refrigerator look? And what if one refrigerator has a video display to show users when they need certain groceries? Or, in terms of wearable technology, how can CSPs work with healthcare providers when it comes to medical devices that are connected to the cloud?

With the legacy and multiple OSS/BSS systems that many CSPs still have in place, it may seem like an overwhelming problem to manage. But with SDN and NFV, operators can more easily and economically manage the end-to-end deployment and orchestration of these complex services across all these devices, deployed across virtual networks.

The Internet of Things (IoT) will necessitate – and possibly expedite – the virtualisation revolution that’s already underway in telecommunications. The control plane is evolving, and at the tail-end of this transformation, we’ll see an artificially intelligent, agile orchestration layer that can understand the role of each and every device in the broader context of user behaviour and network patterns.

The excitement around SDN and NFV that we’ve already seen at TM Forum Live! is only going to grow as more connected devices come online. In this case, at least, we may actually see two trends where the hype is matched by the reality.


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3 Takeaways about SDN / NFV from TM Forum Live!

Posted: June 30th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Events, Industry Insights | Tags: , , | 1 Comment »

At the beginning of June, Comptel attended TM Forum Live! in Nice, France. The emphasis in the keynote sessions was building a better customer experience, but there was an alternate, overarching topic on the show floor: software-defined networking (SDN) and network function virtualisation (NFV).

In fact, most of the conference attendees believed that infrastructure virtualisation is eventually inevitable for all telcos and the adoption of SDN / NFV was an effective way for communications service providers (CSPs) to modernise their systems, although purely virtualised environments are still years away. SDN and NFV will become integral to controlling and simplifying networks, as well as creating agile, quick-to-market services. With these technologies, operators can more easily and more economically manage the end-to-end orchestration of complex services deployed across virtualised, multi-vendor networks.

However, as new SDN / NFV deployments are introduced, they will be required to work alongside legacy networks for several years to come, requiring OSS/BSS layers to support hybrid architectures of a traditional non-virtualised and the newer virtualised approach to networking.

This potentially means that in the earlier stages of adoption, there may be an increased level of complexity, rather than a reduction. That means operators need to take a long look at their current systems and decide on a transformative or supplemental approach to modernisation, creating a future-proof environment or adding a new OSS stack for the new technology.

Comptel, focusing on the future-proof concept, recently partnered with Nakina Systems to capitalise on these possibilities. TM Forum Live! served to show that many industry leaders are already thinking about the opportunities, too. Here are three trends we noticed in Nice concerning SDN and NFV:

1. NFV is on Everyone’s Minds.

During the event, Aileen Smith, vice president of organisational transformation at TM Forum, spoke with RCR Wireless News about SDN / NFV in detail. She explained that NFV in particular was “the hottest topic at the show.” She added that when TM Forum ran a pre-conference workshop about NFV, more than 200 people attended.

At the conference, Smith said she saw a lot of attendees preparing and discussing NFV deployment. Operators and vendors collaborated in focused, agile groups, brainstorming strategies for virtualisation.

2. NFV and SDN are Putting Hardware in the Background.

In one presentation, a speaker noted that NFV technology allows CSPs to steer traffic through both physical and virtual network services. Rather than orchestrating and managing network functions across hardware appliances, many orchestrations will take place on virtual infrastructure. Another presentation highlighted how Time Warner Cable is rolling out NFV in a way that supersedes physical machines in favour of a virtual environment.

With NFV and SDN deployments, CSPs will put more emphasis on virtual software environments and less emphasis on physical appliances. Separating the data plane from the control plane presents an unprecedented opportunity to transfer a coherent control of the intelligent decisions taken in the network from distributed expensive specialised hardware to commodity hardware allowing CSPs to decrease time-to-market and significantly cut operational costs. Consequently, the virtualisation layer deployed across network, storage and computing hardware will usher in a new era of business agility, applications and responsiveness.

3. NFV and SDN Can’t Happen in a Vacuum.

At TM Forum Live!, Comptel decided to demonstrate exactly how NFV and an SDN environment can be orchestrated. Through the Comptel fulfillment platform, we can create a catalog-driven and modernised order orchestration environment across SDN/NFV networks as well as legacy networks.

The demonstration was driven from an integrated Salesforce front-office user interface, namely the Service Order Validator application – that makes relational management of customers, their services and the network – easier than ever before. The application combines Salesforce CRM functionality with back-office orchestration from Comptel Fulfillment, incorporating service catalog, order management, logical inventory, provisioning and activation to deploy a true end-to-end service complete with virtualised firewalls and load balancing functions as examples of simple VNF (virtualised network function) instantiations.

Virtual environments offer exciting possibilities, but consideration has to be made for solutions that bridge the gap between legacy and SDN/NFV, allowing CSPs to take full advantage of those possibilities. This is all the more important, as legacy equipment becomes incrementally replaced with commoditised and virtualised infrastructure. Much traditional network hardware will stay in place during the transition, leading to interim hybrid infrastructure that is both virtual and physical – with complex relationships.

OSS/BSS technology will play an exciting role in this evolution – the successful platforms will have to be able to orchestrate network virtualisation and control across multiple layers. Despite the euphoria around it, CSPs cannot focus exclusively on SDN and NFV – as front-end aspects of the business change, companies have to think about how services are created, delivered and consumed at every point in the service lifecycle.

Watch Comptel’s Steve Hateley discuss this trend in more detail:


What’s new with SDN and the Cloud?

Posted: April 23rd, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Industry Insights | Tags: , , , | Comments Off on What’s new with SDN and the Cloud?

As communications service providers (CSPs) compete with over-the-top providers (OTT) for revenue, there’s an increasing emphasis on them to beef up their responsiveness and agility. Many CSPs are evaluating software-defined networking (SDN), network function virtualisation (NFV) and the cloud as ways to achieve this. But will SDN and NFV be a revolution or an evolution? And are CSPs going to turn to commercial networks or open source ones? We decided to comb the Twittersphere to see what kinds of developments were happening around these topics this week:

If you would like to learn more about Comptel’s thoughts on SDN, NFV and more, set up a meeting with us at TM Forum Live!


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Telecoms Network Equipment Manufacturers Move to Create an Interoperability Initiative… Finally

Posted: May 28th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Behind the Scenes, Industry Insights | Tags: , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Telecoms Network Equipment Manufacturers Move to Create an Interoperability Initiative… Finally

At Comptel, we’ve prided ourselves on being an Operations Support System Independent Software Vendor (OSS ISV) that can span across different standards and interfaces. For us, that flexibility is crucial to building and providing a dynamic system that we know will fit all of our customers’ needs. That said, I won’t hide the fact that to make sure our software runs just as well on one telecom network equipment manufacturers (NEM) technology than another’s requires significant effort from our team.

That’s why we were interested to see that Ericsson, Huawei and Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN), three of the world’s largest telecom NEMs, have decided to launch an OSS interoperability initiative (OSSii).  In short, the businesses agreed to sign bilateral, cross-licensing agreements that will ostensibly help foster the development of a standardised interface from their equipment.

We’re curious about where this initiative will lead. TM Forum has been working on standardised interfaces for fifteen years, and we can’t help but wonder if this could be the start of a rival organisation. Huawei’s OSS & wireless networks president Jiang Wangcheng said that the OSSii will “provide operators in all markets the ability to fully capitalise on the best OSS solutions available”, reducing operating costs and time-to-market, but most of the top ISV OSS solutions already have very sophisticated interface development kits that allow for support, time-to-market flexibility and interoperability.

Could this OSSii instead be meant to help these big NEMs capture a larger slice of the OSS pie for their own services and SI organisations? Nevertheless by simplifying interface challenges, the market could take on a new dynamic.

Innovating on Top of an Interface

Most OSS ISVs like Comptel have already accomplished what Ericsson, Huawei and NSN are trying to do. We’ve had to develop solutions that communicate across different platforms and systems out of sheer necessity. Comptel has solved the interoperability issues of telecoms vendors with products that work across the board. The real challenge now is integrating existing and new networks to deliver convergent services in a way that maximises reusability and capacity.

The OSSii is a move in the right direction for these three NEMs, who have been guarding their licenses and interfaces very closely up until now. We hope that, once they have developed a standardised interface, they will join OSS ISVs to help revolutionise the space of concept-to-cash, Service Defined Network (SDN) and other upcoming changes in the telecom industry. This is where we think the future is—beyond operability and resource management, into the realm of profitable service growth.