vNF not NFV

The Important

  • Innovation creates defacto industry standards, industry standards do not create innovation.
  • Cloud native is state of the art. It is harder than monolithic software, it is harder than a static view of virtual machine based architectures, but it is what the best of the best do.
  • Only those telcos that go cloud native are going to thrive in the long run. Some may survive with NFV, but they will not thrive with it

Discussion

Declaring NFV dead is a chorus that is now reaching a deafening volume. The most recent voice catching attention comes from LightReading:

Is NFV Headed for a Cliff?

The words in that article that resonate with me the most are the following:

“There is an inherent contradiction in standardizing a reference architecture and also talking about innovation in the same breath.”

History is a good teacher: TL1, CMIP, SONET and other telecom-specific standards, demonstrate that telecom-specific standards are not the long term solution, and to justify them by saying they solve short term telecom problems, is a classic case of not seeing the forest for the trees. For sure, there are areas of networking that are specific to telecom operators, and they may require telecom-specific efforts. Creating agile and efficient cloud architectures is not one of them.

There is nothing inherently bad about the idea of virtualizing functions, which is why I titled the article, tongue-in-cheek, vNF not NFV. The issue is NFV:

  • Over-standardization of how to get to vNF-based architectures
  • Wrapping vNFs in a telecom bureaucracy that frightens away a broad-spectrum of entrepreneurs
  • A stasis that traps software architectures in paradigms that the broad market is leaving behind, and not where the best and brightest want to cut their teeth and/or learn/grow

Conclusion

Big telcos have sufficient cash flow, and relatively constrained competition, so they can likely survive while they continue to push a telecom-specific NFV approach. Those that want to go from surviving to thriving will bite the cloud-native bullet.

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