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Vodafone would like to see more urgency from vendors on NFV

TM Forum catalysts

We’re heading in the right direction on virtualized network functions, according to Vodafone, but vendors could do more to become ‘cloud-native’.

This was the view of Atul Purohit, Principal Enterprise Architect, Group Technonlogy at Vodafone, in an interview with Telecoms.com at the recent TM Forum Live event. One of Purohit’s main areas is VNF onboarding, which addresses how virtual network functions are integrated into the cloud.

“I think the VNF vendors have been a bit slow in adopting the cloud maturity model,” said Purohit. “They have been virtualizing their stuff but if you ask me whether any VNF provider has a cloud-ready or cloud-native VNF there answer would be no. The response we’re expecting from the vendors – to mature their offering in terms of cloud readiness and defining their software in a more standard way – that urgency is not yet fully realised.”

It’s one thing to virtualize a network function, it seems, but quite another to package it in such a way as is plays nice in the cloud. “Have they been virtualized? Yes. But have they been virtualized enough, with metamodels on top so they can be onboarded seamlessly? No,” said Purohit. “Just writing applications in software isn’t enough because we need a much more mature way of representing the software – for it to ultimately have cloud native status.

“Can we take a VNF from a provider and wrap it round with the right set of data on top of it to tell what the licensing mechanism, performance KPAs, etc will be? A last year’s event we signed an open API manifesto together with several other service providers because we all need to speak the same language. What’s happening is that each vendors is coming with their own way of expressing their stuff, but it may not be the same language we speak.”

The main purpose of the TM Forum is to promote collaboration within the telecoms industry, something that is apparently more needed than ever given the complexity of the move to virtualization. Vodafone was participating in several ‘catalysts’ at the event, which are designed to showcase specific examples of successful collaboration.

This isn’t the first time Vodafone has expressed its concerns about the rate of progress of VNF onboarding. A year ago Vodafone’s head of SDN and NFV expressed similar concerns to Light Reading, so it looks like vendors may still not have got the memo. We asked whether, since virtualization challenges many traditional vendor commercial models, they might be deliberately dragging their feet on this stuff.

“It’s a tough problem to crack – it’s not as simple as just hiring a lot of software developers,” said Purohit. “Everyone is moving in the right direction but the pace is still a question. And the kind of leadership we should see in the urgency to move from a box to a cloud-native ecosystem is probably a bit less than we would like.”

The rate of progress of telecoms virtualization was a recurring theme at the TM Forum Live event. Such is the complexity of the project that it currently seems to defy things like standardization, which seemed to be something Purohit would like to have seen more of by now. But whatever the reason is behind it, vendors should seriously look into the reasons behind this perceived lack of urgency on their part.

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