NFV implementation and integration

Written by on November 25, 2015 in BillingViews, Guest Blog with 0 Comments

NFV is youngCSPs are looking to become leaner and more agile organisations. With this comes an increased focus on the reduction of CapEx and OpEx budgets – where network-function virtualisation (NFV) can play a major role by enabling CSPs to turn up services in minutes rather than months.

But, for those CSPs looking at the potential of NFV it’s important to examine how it impacts BSS, as many existing network operations models and OSS/BSS systems are not prepared for emerging new technologies like NFV.

It is easy to forget that the technology is less than 3 years old. During this time, the industry has made sufficient advances that now allow standard business servers using virtualised functions handle the data throughput needed. The rapid evolution of open standards and the fact that all the major equipment vendors now embrace them has caused a seismic shift away from proprietary systems, towards the creation of ecosystems that enable multiple vendors to collaborate on end to end solutions. The significant engagement of operators with such ecosystems has allowed a range of PoCs and trials to be successfully completed, such as OPNNFV and OpenDaylight.

PoCs to date

Recently, Openet was involved in the showcase of an ETSI proof of concept demonstration of real-time OSS/BSS running on a virtualised environment. The aim was to show how NFV concepts can be applied to OSS/BSS to deliver on the business benefits and improved customer experience that it promises, brought by increased system agility, faster time to market, reduced TCO, increased elasticity and greater service availability.

NFV has already has changed the way things are done. The majority of equipment vendors have reorganised their business unit to focus on this area. Several operators have decided to merge and consolidate network and IT functions to facilitate the move to software-defined networks. At MWC 2015, John Donovan, SEVP of technology and operations at AT&T stated that 5% of targeted functions will be virtualised using NFV by year-end, and plans to have 75% of network functions virtualised by 2020. Telefonica’s UNICA virtualisation initiative has stated its objective is to have more than 30% of the company’s new infrastructures managed in accordance with this model by 2016. Operators are already starting to roll out several innovative products with reduced cycle time and more flexibility, for example, AT&T’s Network on Demand service that enables customers to add or change network services as needed, in real time.

Future challenges for NFV

But what is clear is that much work remains to standardise the management and orchestration (MANO) function. PoC and technical trials that are concerned with technical features must migrate to field deployments that validate the NFV business case. The industry recognises the challenges ahead, the NFV Industry Specification Group (ISG) has opined that current network operations models and OSS solutions are not prepared for emerging new technologies like NFV. It suggests new thinking is required on OSS/BSS that will open up opportunities to gain significant operational benefits and how legacy OSS/BSS systems will need to evolve in order to support NFV.

The introduction of SDN and NFV means independent vendors can easily offer agile and flexible OSS/BSS systems that enable a raft of new lucrative use cases like sponsored data, shared data plans and VoLTE. But most importantly, benefits of virtualised BSS can be realised without a big bang rip and replace of existing systems: new services can be enabled using an NFV/SDN solution as an adjunct deployment, in parallel with the existing legacy network.

Integrating with BSS

Simply extending existing OSS/BSS models to account for virtualisation will not be sufficient, because this approach will not support the new value-added capabilities and services provided by NFV. In addition, there is also the need for real-time processing of a huge amount of data, including data analytics, based on several data sources. Structured and unstructured data from the infrastructure is a further key challenge in the OSS/BSS and NFV context.

On its own, network functions virtualisation is not enough. NFV concepts need to be applied in the OSS/BSS to deliver on the promises of NFV such as agility, reduced total cost of ownership, increased elasticity and greater service availability. This is particularly important for policy and charging functions. There is little point in having a dynamic network if the monetising, access control, and revenue handling systems are not similarly endowed.

The nirvana, which is five to ten years away, is running NFV over SDN and that is where the CapEx and OpEx reductions will really become material. It will come in steps, but just hacking away at budgets will not get the ability CSPs need to stay in business. CSPs cannot simply save their way to greatness.

This is an Openet blog published on VanillaPlus.com

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Martin Morgan

About the Author

About the Author: With 25 years’ experience in mobile communications software, Martin has worked in mobile billing software since the early days of the industry. As such he’s been around long enough to have had numerous articles published. He has spoken at many conferences. He’s served on the boards of software companies and trade associations. At Openet Martin is responsible for marketing thought leadership and demand creation. .

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