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

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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


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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