As recent as five years ago, software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV) were looked to as the future of networking, as they offered new ways to deliver and manage high-valued services. It has taken some time, but SDN and NFV are no longer anticipated network technologies of the distant future, as they are beginning to be integrated into the operations of leading communication service providers.
SDN Market Projection: Research and Markets anticipates that the global SDN market will expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 53.13 percent, from a U.S. $3.270 billion industry in 2016 to a U.S. $42.157 billion industry by 2021.
NFV Market Projection: Technavio predicts that the global NFV market will grow by a CAGR of 33 percent by 2020.
Benefits of Shifting to Virtual Networks
While the first totally virtualized networks aren’t expected for another few years, operators are beginning to run SDN and NFV alongside their traditional network infrastructure. This evolution has been driven by the need for operators to meet the increasing demands being placed on the network.
The benefits of SDN and NFV include:
- Increased network flexibility: By virtualizing network elements, operators can quickly deploy services via software applications. As operations become software based, network functions can be easily scaled up or down, and moved to various locations in the network with the click of a mouse.
- Improved network performance: This benefit ties in with flexibility, as the more flexible your network is, the better the overall network performance will be. Hybrid networks allow certain functions to be automated, which in turn lessens the possibility of human error and eliminates the manual processes associated with legacy networks.
- Cost reduction: Virtualization is a powerful technology of scale that allows for the enhancement of storage, bandwidth configurations, etc. without major investment in additional physical hardware because it operates in a cloud environment.
Challenges of the Hybrid SDN/NFV Model
There are a number of reasons why a jump from legacy networks to virtual ones cannot happen overnight. One of the main challenges operators face in the wake of virtualization is being able to adapt their operations to manage service performance in real time across both physical and virtual infrastructure in a cost-effective way.
In order to realize the business goals of virtualization, operators require a service assurance solution that allows a single operations team to monitor and troubleshoot across the hybrid network by visualizing services end-to-end overlaid with key KPI in a single interface. It isn’t cost effective to have two different operations teams (one for virtual and one for legacy), so it’s critical to have a simple, holistic way of viewing the performance of the entire hybrid network.
Global Adoption of the Hybrid Model
The benefits of SDN and NFV are clear to telecom operators, evidenced by the relatively unified leap to virtualization, at least among the Tier 1 crowd. We anticipate that these few early adopters will achieve full virtualization within the next three to five years, maintaining hybrid models in the meantime.
This is good news for mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs), which can move forward with SDN and NFV initiatives since the carrier infrastructure they rely on is already being upgraded.
As for Tiers 2 and 3, though, the situation gets trickier. Tier 2 operators are at somewhat of a standstill when it comes to SDN and NFV. For the most part, they’re determining if the return is worth the very substantial upfront investment, but they – like nearly every operator – appreciate the growing importance of adopting virtualization, not only to boost network flexibility and agility, and lower operational costs, but also to keep up with the competition.
The Way Forward
Operators of any size can address the complexity challenges presented by hybrid networks by visualizing the network and its services in real time, across the network in one platform. And that’s where CENX’s solution comes in.
CENX’s market-leading service assurance solution helps make hybrid, virtualized networks more reliable and efficient. With the ability to analyze network performance in real time, rapidly identify the impacts of a specific service problem, and comprehensively visualize network topology, CENX provides a service assurance platform that not only solves the operational challenges for today’s network but also provides the tools for automating tomorrow’s virtual network.
With telecom operators demanding more agility and flexibility by the minute, investing in virtualization and the best tools to manage it is quickly becoming less of a choice and more of a necessity.
Visit our team at Mobile World Congress 2018 at booth F50 in Hall 2 to learn more about how our solution is driving network transformation for some of the world’s largest Tier 1 communication service providers.