I’d promised myself that I’d take a break from discussing cloud and NFV for a while, but against my better judgement, here’s one more…

For the past year or so we have been working on our new cloud product designed to solve the problem of resiliency for NFV based networks. NFV is a daunting task, but the potential is great and it could literally transform the daily lives of everyone.

Without NFV, the operators really can’t move forward quickly with next generation networks. Without next generation networks, innovations in IoT and even ideas that seem so far out like driverless cars will be at best stymied and at worst impossible. So everyone is in agreement that we need NFV, but it’s a daunting task and it will be really hard to get there.

  1. The technology isn’t there yet – Today’s VNFs are not carrier grade and neither is the underlying NFV infrastructure (something Stratus and others are trying to fix)
  2. The vendor incentives aren’t there – If you are Cisco or Alcatel and see what just happened to EMC, you have to consider how fast you want to change your business model from appliances to software
  3. The operators are still getting ready for this change – There is a lot of legacy and history there and changing people’s mindsets is probably harder than addressing 1 and 2 above

This is why I’m glad to see AT&T acting like an industry titan and making change happen. They have been getting a lot of press lately but the transformation doesn’t happen overnight. It’s been a while and if you have been keeping an eye on OpenStack, OP-NFV and other NFV communities it should be no surprise. So, what makes AT&T different?

  1. AT&T are working with those who have incentive to move slowly – They have a vision and a supporting program called Domain 2.0 which is an ecosystem of traditional and disruptive technology companies. They are running PoCs and testing new technologies now to see what works and what doesn’t. And in some instances, they are directly involved in the design of these technologies. Of course the incentive for the vendors involved is a crack at being part of the future vs the past.
  2. AT&T are defining the requirements in an open source way – The biggest roadblock to NFV adoption will be standards. The natural tendency for a VNF provider is to build everything into the VNF just like they did in the old days. Although that maximizes the vendor’s flexibility, it doesn’t help the operators who want to build as much into the infrastructure as possible to maximize their flexibility. This is why communities such as OP-NFV allow operators to define the infrastructure as a template that everyone can work towards. Who founded OP-NFV? Well it was AT&T.
  3. Lastly, AT&T are getting out there and being up front about what’s working at what’s not. All of the interviews, the keynotes and public facing activity is a means to communicate and demonstrate to other operators what is working. AT&T know NFV will not reach its full potential if other operators don’t buy into it. It’s not about competitive advantage. It’s about creating a next generation platform upon which competitive advantage will be built.

When I think about the enterprise and my experience in open source, it was always the industry titans that drove everyone forward. Open Source middleware would not be what it is today without companies like Geico and NYSE. Linux would not be what it is today without the U.S Government and a host of others like Apple who just announced they were adopting KVM in a big way. All were game changers, and someday, I think AT&T will be a game changer for NFV and will be to the benefit of everyone.