When Will NFV Cross the Chasm?
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Jim Metzler, Founder and Vice President, Ashton, Metzler, and Associates. Jim is the author of a 2015 TM Forum Insights Research paper titled, When Will NFV Cross the Chasm? You can download this paper for free, compliments of SevOne.
Jim had some interesting insight on the current state of NFV and its partner, SDN. Below is an excerpt from our conversation.
Q: Let’s get right to the point… when will NFV cross Geoffrey Moore’s infamous chasm to widespread adoption?
Metzler: That’s an interesting question, because it’s been on the edge of crossing the chasm for the last year or two. But it hasn’t done that yet for a couple of really important reasons…
Most of the focus with NFV – I think incorrectly – has been on the Service Providers. One of the reasons for that is because ETSI (the European Telecommunications Standards Institute) has been driving most of the conversation. If you think of the ETSI definition of NFV, it’s extremely broad… and it has a variety of key features such as automation, reliability, security, manageability, and orchestration. With that broad definition of NFV, it’s not going to cross the chasm any time soon.
However, I’ve talked to a number of service providers – British Telecommunications comes right to mind – and they’re focused on certain use cases, like virtual CPE... If I look at an example of something like that, relatively narrowly defined and maybe less automation and less orchestration than the full [ETSI] vision, you can expect that kind of use case to cross the chasm in 18-24 months [in 2017].
Q: You said most of the focus with NFV has been incorrectly pointed towards the Service Providers. Why so?
Metzler: Because I recently surveyed about 200 IT professionals and they said, “We’re doing NFV today.” And what they mean is they’ve virtualized some key functionality. WAN optimization controllers, firewalls, etc. The Enterprise has been more aggressive than Service Providers over the last 2-3 years in implementing virtualized functionality. So yes, NFV certainly applies in the carrier space, but I believe it also applies in the Enterprise space.
But what’s interesting is that Service Providers are further along in understanding management and orchestration. The Enterprise right now is still happy to have a WAN optimization controller in a virtual format. They have not yet gotten into – and they will – the management, orchestration, and SLA-type levels that the Service Providers are coming to grips with. The good news is, when the Enterprise is ready for that, the problems will have been largely solved by the Service Providers.
Q: People often speak of “agility” as a benefit of SDN. But that is hard to translate into concrete business value. How can IT prove SDN’s value to the Business Unit?
Metzler: The IT organization unto itself cannot show the business value of anything, let along the agility associated with SDN. What IT can do is work with the Business Unit Manager and be able to demonstrate… if I can allow this application to dynamically signal for the resources, how does that impact your key processes? [The Business Unit Manager] has to be the one to identify those key processes.
And you know what happens a lot? We have proofs of concepts around technology, but I’ve yet to come across a proof of concept of the business process. In a hypothetical case, if a business process today takes a month and they bring that down to two weeks, a naïve person would say, “That’s the business value – it goes to two weeks.” The Business Unit Manager needs to justify… does that mean more revenue, more customer loyalty, or freeing up resources to do other things? What’s the real business value? Not just four weeks to two weeks.
For more information about NFV and SDN, including survey responses from more than 100 Service Providers and key players in the space, download the free paper from TM Forum Insights Research, When Will NFV Cross the Chasm? (a $495 value)