Three steps to network virtualization

Telecoms.com periodically invites third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece Massimo Fatato, Managing Partner at Cartesian, offers the CSP guide to accelerating progress towards the next era of communications.

Despite the hype around network virtualization, the road to transformation is proving to be a complex one to navigate. This is something operators and Communications Service Providers (CSPs) are quickly discovering as they start rolling out new systems and services.

The challenge comes in having to find ways to manage an increasingly complex infrastructure, while also striking the right balance between digitally transforming operations and ensuring business continuity. Indeed, the intricacy involved in virtualization can often make it difficult to know where to start, with the technology presenting some tricky questions for CPSs to answer, such as: how will the new technology work in parallel with legacy networks? And how long will it take for cost benefits to be realised?

The end result may therefore seem a long way off, especially with progress in the industry so far being slower than expected. However, here are three practical things that businesses can do to kickstart the process and help them along the journey.

1. Optimise your infrastructure

What has quickly become clear is that a lack of technological maturity is one of the industry’s main barriers to progress, creating a series of technical and operational challenges.

According to a recent survey, the reliability of virtualization technology and coping with the coexistence of virtual and legacy domains ranked as the two most concerning aspects of virtual networks. Furthermore, over half (52%) of respondents agreed that the amount of operational change required to move to a virtualized network is overwhelming.

These factors highlight the need for businesses to optimise existing systems early so that they are able to function in parallel with virtual networks and respond to the technological change coming their way.

For example, working with hybrid networks can be an issue for OSS/BSS and for managing different approaches to security, while the lack of standardization in the industry means businesses will have to work with multiple different orchestrators.

Technical and operational challenges are certainly proving difficult to overcome. But, enhancing what is already in place can help ensure a smoother transition and save money in the long run.

2. Evolve your workforce

It’s no secret that the industry is facing a skills shortage, with the required level of technical expertise proving hard to come by. Practical experience is scarce and, as a result, businesses are struggling to find the right talent.

But looking outwards isn’t the only option. What many CSPs don’t realise is that they can achieve network transformation by evolving their current workforce and leveraging the knowledge they already have, rather than making wholesale changes.

Additional training programmes, for example, is something that the industry is crying out for, with 80% of telco and CSP executives believing operators need to invest more in training staff to manage NFV/SDN infrastructure.

Revamping recruiting processes to target people familiar with cloud and software development could also be an option although, in reality, it’s unlikely to be a choice between one or the other.

For many organisations, a combination of employing new people with the right digital skills and re-training existing employees to help them adapt to modern technologies and new ways of working, will go a long way towards solving any people problems that may be holding back deployments.

3. Find the right partners

When it comes to the deployment of technology solutions, times have undoubtedly changed. Relying on vendors to provide turn-key solutions that can be easily deployed and immediately installed is simply no longer an option – there are many more steps that need to be taken to achieve success.

Modern operators and CSPs therefore need to learn how to lead the multiple components of their network transformation projects. However, the level of complexity involved in network virtualization means very few CSPs will be able to go it alone, so assembling a team of expert partners that can provide guidance and meet each organization’s specific needs is essential.

Acquiring any extra skills and resources that aren’t already available in house is a key component of the journey and can be extremely effective in plugging any gaps that may emerge, both in the long and short-term.

It can also help to minimise the various technical and operational challenges CSPs are facing, enabling organisations to progress their virtualization deployments.

One step at a time

Our final piece of advice for CSPs is to start small. Transforming the entire network infrastructure in one go would be a daunting task for anyone and is likely to result in significant delays and uncertainties along the way.

Instead, virtualizing select business applications one by one is likely to be the most optimal approach. Not only will CSPs be able to take these specific services to market faster, it will also enable them to build out a framework that engages all the relevant stakeholders. This process can then be replicated in other business areas over time, thereby decreasing the inherent risks of transformation.

This incremental mindset, along with our three-step approach, can take the pain out of network virtualization and position businesses on the path to success.


Massimo Fatato high_resMassimo Fatato, Managing Partner at Cartesian. Massimo is a Managing Partner in Cartesian and brings thirty years of experience in the telecom industry to Cartesian and its customers. He leads Cartesian’s Next Generation Network (NGN) Practice worldwide to support telecom service providers and enterprises to accelerate the adoption of virtualization and support their transformation journey to full service digitalization and operational automation.

  • Cable Next-Gen Digital Symposium

  • 2020 Vision Executive Summit

  • Network Virtualization & SDN Americas

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