NFV influence spreads as shift to 5G accelerates

Close to 80% of industry professionals see network functions virtualisation as either important or critical

The digital economy requires that applications and network services are delivered with unprecedented speed, scale, and agility, said Salaets.
The digital economy requires that applications and network services are delivered with unprecedented speed, scale, and agility, said Salaets.

New research shows that at as many as 79% of telecoms professionals view network functions virtualisation (NFV) as a critical strategic focus over the next five years.

According to the F5-sponsored Annual Industry Survey, NFV’s influence is on the rise and has strong support from both technology evangelists and the wider telecoms industry.

“An ever more competitive digital economy requires that applications and network services are delivered with unprecedented speed, scale, and agility,” said Bart Salaets, EMEA solution architect director, F5 Networks.

“Service providers are under massive pressure to optimise their data and video network traffic to maximise network efficiency, generate revenues, as well as maintain and improve subscriber quality of experience. Against a rapidly shifting backdrop of digital transformation and IoT uptake, service providers are increasingly deploying NFV to create new services and business models to increase service agility, drive innovation through automation, as well as achieve greater cost efficiency and operational flexibility.”

According to respondents, the top three NFV benefits include greater network and services flexibility (48%), enabling automation for increased efficiency of operations (44%), and reducing OPEX (40%).

A considerable number of survey participants also hailed NFV’s potential to reduce CAPEX (36%), as well as its ability to improve network performance and reliability (35%).

NFV’s growing importance is further reiterated by current investment plans. More than 95% of respondents believed their companies’ investment in the technology will either increase or stay constant in 2019.

The drivers are clear. When asked to name this year’s top business service and application challenges, 48% selected time to market, 46% customer experience improvement, and 45% efficiency of operations.

Challenges and outlook

While the telecoms industry is generally bullish on NFV’s prospects, challenges remain.

For example, more than 60% of respondents felt they were not entirely on top of their purchasing methodology for NFV solutions. A third felt they needed to reduce costs of their purchasing methodologies by looking into or implementing automated systems.

Meanwhile, an air of implementation uncertainty still permeates the industry. Compared to last year’s annual report, fewer companies are confident they are doing a “great job” with NFV deployment.  Only 8% felt NFV was easy to implement on schedule, and 22% experienced more difficulty than expected. Nearly half respondents (48%) felt it was as difficult as expected.

The biggest cited barriers to successful implementation are high cost and complexity of deployment (36%), followed by a lack of clear business cases (32%).

“NFV architectures have the potential to provide the necessary network flexibility to enable new service delivery models and elastic network scaling to reduce total cost of ownership. However, this potential will only be realised if the solutions deployed on NFV architectures are easy to integrate into the automation and orchestration toolchain,” said Salaets.

“Meanwhile, challenges still remain with perceptions about implementation and purchasing methodologies. The industry needs a simpler, automated process. Service providers should consider vendors that can help overcome these challenges and maximise opportunities, for example by providing packaged Virtual Network Functions (VNF) services with ready-to-install solutions. To ease purchasing, planning, and sizing, service providers should also look for consumption or throughput-based models that fully align with their services.”

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