Most analysts agree that the Telecom Networking industry, which has showed in the past 20 years a methodical pace of change, is now approaching adisruptive transformation period! A world where new technologies used to replace previous ones in an orderly fashion may soon enter into a complete revolution. Somehow similar to what happened to traditional internet with the advent of Web 2.0 and Social Media, this revolution will reshape winners and losers in the market, as well as it will change the overall networking industry ecosystem.
The transformation of the networking world we are referring to includes two radical changes in the underlying infrastructure. Firstly, the moving away from customized and propriety hardware platforms to lower-cost industry-standard platforms. Secondly, the transition to a software-driven network architecture, inherently capable to cost-effectively handle the huge growth forecasted in data traffic, as well as able to flexibly manage the explosion of new resource-demanding services.
Two evolving technologies are driving this radical transformation. The first of these, Software Defined Networking (SDN), allows network services abstraction by decoupling decisions about traffic (the control plane) from the underlying systems that forward traffic to the selected destination (the data plane), making it easier and less expensive to manage large and complex networks. The second enabler is represented by Network Functions Virtualization (NFV), an architecture concept that proposes using IT virtualization technologies to virtualize entire classes of network functions, increase telecom network resource utilization, and reduce the costs associated with the introduction of new services.
At a very high level, NFV and SDN share many characteristics. The central idea, for both of them, is the separation of hardware and software for network components. And, while either SDN or NFV can be deployed on their own, there are high synergies in combining them. In the networks of the future, the two technologies will be likely complementary in addressing different elements of a software-driven evolution. Until today, the highest interest in SDN technologies has been shown in Data Centers and Cloud Computing arenas, while Telecom Carriers are driving many of the NFV initiatives.
Embracing NFV and SDN represents a radical transformation for network operators, as it requires significant changes in the network culture created by decades of procuring & building networks in collaboration with traditional Network Vendor Equipments. Nevertheless, those network operators that will successfully overcome these challenges will find themselves in a far better position than today for competing with OTT and with aggressive new entrants.
We may be at the dawn of a new era in the networking industry, and NFV & SDN are the “basic tools” needed to enable this revolution.