It’s only 2.5 years since telecoms network operators launched Network Function Virtualization to move from dedicated proprietary and closed systems to systems based on standard IT virtualisation technology and Open Standards. Remarkable progress has been made in this short time. Recent moves by AT&T, Verizon and CenturyLink all signal that service providers are embracing NFV with AT&T expecting to migrate 75 percent of its network elements to software by 2020. A new report from Infonetics  which states that 83% of service providers surveyed said they have deployed or will deploy or evaluate in 2015 with another 9% planning to do so in 2016. Up to now, NFV implementations have been on a small scale but a recent report from the DELL’ORO GROUP predicts that early adopters are now on the verge of large-scale deployments with some very large projects to start ramping in the next 12 months.
In May 2015, Operators and Vendors came together at San Jose for NFV World Congress with the key topics of Accelerating Carrier Innovation with NFV + SDN and Building the new Carrier Network Ecosystem. NFV World Congress opened with a workshop where carriers restated what they expect from NFV. The points are not new but clearly the carriers need to make sure their message heard and what they say is:
The No. 1 opportunity is really agility as Bryan Sullivan, director of service standards for AT&T stated “To turn up some circuit across the country, it should be minutes instead of months.” The Service agility provided by NFV offers a quicker time to revenue: as service providers can quickly add, drop, and change the services and applications.
Cost Savings and Common Ground
There is a perception that unlike enterprises, Telecom networks are unique and that’s one factor preventing carriers from enjoying the benefits of commodity gear. NFV can point the way toward common goals and architectures, the reward would be commoditized equipment. Which leads to an even bigger goal for NFV by consolidating hardware and simplifying service deployment processes NFV operators can expect to further reduce OpEx and CapEx by using high volume standard hardware instead of proprietary hardware. The more we converge, the more we don’t fail,” said Margaret Chiosi, distinguished network architect at AT&T Labs.
An End to Vendor Lock-In
NFV “is going to make it much more possible to gain new partners and bring in new services from new suppliers very quickly,” said Bryan Sullivan, director of service standards for AT&T.
Luigi Licciardi, a Telecom Italia vice president in charge of technology planning and standards, said the interfaces aren’t open enough — neither upstream to the application nor downstream to the equipment’s element management systems — and that his team is “not satisfied with the answers we have on this issue from the traditional vendors.”
The telecom network must still be engineered for five-nine. This is where telecom providers’ needs diverge from those of the enterprise or the hyper scale cloud players, solution developers need to understand that “carrier-grade” is not just an affectation. As Bryan Sullivan, director of service standards for AT&T stated “Carrier-grade is actually very fundamental. Reliability, performance, security, policy management ….”
I would like to add another need for NFV that service providers should consider. A significant challenge remaining is how NFV interworks with OSS/BSS deliver true business benefits. The NVF Industry Specification group recognises 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. The NFV Management and Orchestration document also accepts that 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. NFV concepts should be applied to OSS/BSS to deliver on the promises of NFV, such as increased system agility, faster time to market, reduced TCO, increased elasticity, and greater service availability.
Openet’s Innovative ETSI NFV Proof of Concept #32, showcased at NVF word congress demonstrating how a virtualised distributed Policy and Charging Control interworks with OSS/BSS to deliver NFV business benefits.
 Infonetics Research NFV Strategies Global Service Provider Survey May 2015
 Dell’Oro Group’s NFV Advanced Research Report May 2015