John Giere, CEO, Openwave Mobility
Every role has different requirements and priorities, therefore the touch points, challenges, and lessons of NFV implementations can be starkly different.
CXO. The big change for the CXO is the shift from CapEx to OpEx. Cloud-based, on-demand, virtualized infrastructure is an OpEX play, while the traditional service provider play has been on capital-intensive, hardware-oriented expenditure. As time goes by, we expect 30 percent of the OpEx to go to NFV infrastructure and 70 percent to go to VNFs/VNFCs. This is the first lesson – that this shift toward OpEx needs to get underway or it will create an institutional barrier to successful NFV deployments.
CFO. From the CFO’s perspective, the lesson is on ROI from an NFV infrastructure. The traditional mind-set has been on ROI from physical infrastructure. A vast simplification is that if we add X physical infrastructure, we can deliver Y revenue. But this thinking is not sufficiently layered for an NFV world. The ROI will only be break-even if it is based on physical infrastructure. With NFV, it is about being able to do things better, rather than having better things. The true payback is based on the change of process as well as infrastructure.
Engineering. When people within an organization realize that they are behind on something, the human ego often kicks in with something like We are terrible at this, but we should be the worlds most advanced at this! And this thinking can filter down to KPIs and dictats. New skills ARE needed for NFVI, but you do not have to be on the bleeding edge. Out there in the real-world, we find that most OpenStack operations are based on the older Mitaka, rather than the newer Pike. And that is okay.
Product management. For product management, the lesson is about making a choice with their eyes open. With the implementations we have been involved in, it has been 60 percent OpenStack and 40 percent VMware. Do we go for a more costly but mature system with advanced tools or a flexible but maturing open environment? That is a big decision for any engineering team – and one that needs to be made understanding the full, long-term implications of both paths.
Ops. As for Ops, their lesson is both challenging and optimistic. Virtualization can and should have a dramatic, positive impact on provisioning speed. We consider that Ops need to be looking at a 50 percent+ savings on the process time for service setup and provisioning. This benchmark will ensure that the realities of process improvement will start to positively impact the ROI from virtualization. Plus, it is not so ambitious to have a negative impact on the Ops team.
CTO. To misquote Top Gun, the CTO is going to feel the need, the need for speed. Services and cloud connectivity have to be low latency. It will not be acceptable for there to be an increase in latency within an NFV environment.
In the telecom world where five nines availability has been a mantra for decades, it certainly will not be accepted in an infrastructure that is meant to be an upgrade. The target for 5G environments is line speed. As an example, for Openwave Mobility our vGiLAN functions work at sub-5mS and we are constantly working to improve that.
Customer experience. And let us not forget who telcos are doing this for. The people, that we all ultimately serve – the people who pay the bills, the subscribers themselves. For the people whose role is to ensure and improve the customer experience, their experience of NFV will be different again. For people in these roles, our advice would be to concentrate on three clear metrics to measure. It will likely be subtly different for every operator, but for example it could be improved throughput, reduced RAN congestion, or improved quality of experience. Whatever the metrics are, they need to be measurable and manageable. And from their perspective, an NFVI has to serve them, so they can better serve their subscribers.
Mass-market NFV is becoming more of a reality day by day. The future is bright, even if it is more complicated than we would like. Thankfully, from the implementations so far, there are already lessons that can be taken, whatever your job role.