A key requirement for the success of the nascent network functions virtualization (NFV) market is the emergence of an independent software community to drive innovation in telecom software. At the recent Open Networking Summit (ONS) event there was significant activity around NFV, including a number of smaller suppliers demonstrating products.
NFV is being championed by a number of Tier 1 communications service providers as a standards-based approach to virtualizing a range of telecom applications, thus enabling them to run on industry standard servers. The goal of NFV is to dramatically reduce CAPEX, simplify operations, and enable operators to introduce new services more rapidly.
The biggest NFV announcement at ONS came from Intel in the form of public support for NFV (and SDN) as a way to transform the stagnant telecom industry. Intel also announced three reference platforms to support NFV and SDN applications.
The biggest question surrounding NFV has always been who will provide the applications necessary to drive NFV? The telecom and network industry is noticeably lacking in software suppliers outside the traditional network equipment (software integrated in a box) model with the exception of operational support and billing suppliers (OSS/BSS).
Oracle has shown strong interest in NFV software with its acquisitions of Tekelec and Acme Packet, with additional acquisitions likely. Cisco, Ericcson and Alcatel Lucent all have large SDN and other network software investments, but questions remains as to how much they will push NFV as compared their current business of selling proprietary network systems (boxes).
The solution to the NFV software "gap" is the emergence of independent suppliers willing to take risks and move fast to develop a wide range of NFV software including: deep packet inspection (DPI), service assurance, routing, firewalls, WAN optimization, SLA monitoring, security, content delivery networking, mobile core and virtual CPE.
Potential NFV ISVs include the following suppliers:
- Affirmed Networks
- Layer 123
- Saisei Networks
Other NFV software elements will emerge from the Tier 2 network equipment providers (e.g., Juniper, NEC, Genband and Mavenir), IT suppliers (e.g., IBM, HP, Oracle, Dell, Redhat, Citrix and VMware), and of course, additional startups as the NFV market moves from concept to reality.
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