NFV’s Impact on Network Equipment Manufacturers

NFV as viewed by the Network Equipment Manufactures

What the customers are looking for from NFV:

With the advent of NFV the networking industry is seeing a big change in the historically conservative views of their Telco customers.  The Telcos are willing to:

  • Take a larger CapEx hit if it means very large reductions on OpEx
  • Work with smaller (startup) vendors
  • Give up their historical 5 9’s requirements of networking hardware
  • Go to an all Software-led infrastructure if they can get the performance needed

These are very large changes when you look at who is offering to make them;  Companies like Deutsch Telekom, Vodafone and AT&T who have generally been conservative on their take-up of new technology.  While the Service Providers are generally quicker to adopt new technology from NEMs, even startup NEMs, the Telcos take their time.

The timing of NFV makes sense

So much has changed in the last few years with regard to commodity hardware systems.  Cisco bought up and brought out the UCS platform.  UCS was initially viewed as another confusing move by Cisco, why would they go up against HP, IBM, Dell and their other close partners? How would Cisco take on such a challenge.

As it turns out, the UCS products have been amazingly successful for Cisco and are helping to push Cisco towards being a Software-led company.  Cisco is involved in the OpenStack movement.  Cisco is virtualizing different routing and switching components and cannibalizing their own conventional hardware router sales (not to a great extent.. yet).

HP has built some of the best performing and trusted blade systems while continuing to push their networking products.

VMware has been building out their networking support and become a player not just in server virtualization, but rack and datacenter consolidation.

Intel has been moving the controller chipsets into their CPUs, Westmere, Sandy Bridge, Ivy Bridge all build upon each other, raising the speed with which a commodity x86 processor can deal with IP packets.  And vice-versus NEMs have been adding x86 blades to their hardware.

How are Network Equipment Manufactures Dealing With NFV?

Cisco and Juniper both offer blades that go in their conventional routers, the Service Ready Engine (SRE) and JunOS vApp Engine.  These blades allow parts of NFV to be executed without a large change to how Telcos and Service Providers handle equipment today.  Instead of having to install commodity servers in their central offices, the Telcos and SPs can add a blade to their current routing equipment and quickly deploy/test services.

NEMs are also involving themselves in the ETSI NFV meetings and processes, offering ideas and solutions that keep the NEMs central to Telco and SP needs.

Startups are working to re-define what a network is, utilizing overlays, underlays and strategies that were unheard of just a few years ago .

All of this comes together at the operational level: making networks easier to manage.

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