OPNFV Is ‘Critical’ For Telecoms Industry, But Skills Shortage Persists

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OPNFV Project is driving uptake of NFV, but a lack of skills and manager commitment causes concern

The Open Platform for Network Function Virtualisation (OPNFV) Project is helping to drive the uptake of network-functions virtualisation (NFV) within the telecom industry, a new survey has found.

The survey, conducted by Heavy Reading, found that 99 percent of respondents agree that OPNFV is poised to deliver on its promise to accelerate NFV, after just 21 months.

Ramping Up

NetworksThe OPNFV Project (a collaborative project at the Linux Foundation) is described as a carrier-grade, integrated, open source platform intended to accelerate the introduction of new products and services using Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV).

NFV was born out of the telecom industry and is an attempt to replace dedicated network appliances with software running on commercial off-the-shelf servers. HPE for example is backing the concept, which is similar in nature to software-defined networking (SDN).

Vendors are backing SDN and NFV as a way to make networks more flexible and programmable, at a time when trends like cloud computing, big data, and bring-your-own-device (BYOD) are increasing the demand for more dynamic networks. Traditional networks often require manual programming, and are often complex and too difficult to quickly adapt to changing business needs.

The difference between SDN and NFV is that SDN essentially separates the control plane from the underlying physical infrastructure and puts the network intelligence into software. NFV on the other hand virtualises such networking tasks as firewalls, load balancing and intrusion detection systems, making them easier to deploy.

The survey about the OPNFV Project was designed to gauge market perceptions of telecommunications network operators. Its key finding was that while 99 percent of those surveyed believe OPNFV will deliver on its promise, 93 percent also believe OPNFV is either essential or important to the telecom industry as a whole.

Another 97 percent of those surveyed plan to leverage the output of OPNFV in some way, the survey found.

Other key findings include the fact that 99 percent of respondents believe that OPNFV is relevant to upstream open source projects, with 85 percent of respondents ranking OpenStack as the most important upstream project to OPNFV’s success, followed by OpenvSwitch (49 percent), KVM (42 percent) and OpenDaylight (37 percent).

And whilst it is still earlier to be talking about real world NFV deployments, it seems that operators are “further along in the journey than they were eight months ago.” Indeed, data shows that only six percent of operators have no NFV strategy planned at all, compared to 14 percent in September 2015.

Skills Shortage

But there remains some challenges, not least of which is a skills shortage, and lack of upper management support.

“While these factors are keeping some organisations on the sidelines, many (47 percent) recognise NFV is a priority for their company and the majority of those (53 percent) indicated they know how to get involved with OPNFV when their organisation is ready to begin NFV planning and execution,” the survey found.

Respondents also feel that security is the top technology that OPNFV should investigate.

“It’s inspiring to see that the industry believes in the importance of what we’re doing with OPNFV,” said Heather Kirksey, director, OPNFV. “Our strong community continues to grow and thrive and while we’re still a young organisation, the results of the survey indicate we’re still on the right path.”

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