By Grant Lenahan

Appledore Research Group attended SDN & OpenFlow World Congress held in Swissotel Dusseldorf Germany October 12 – 16 2015. We had the opportunity to meet with Axel Clauberg of Deutsche Telekom, David Amzallag of Vodafone, Shawn Hakl of Verizon, Steven Wright Chair of ETSI NFV ISG, and others including all of the major suppliers.
As CSPs prepare to move from the basics of virtualizing a network instance to operationalizing the NFV and SDN infrastructure a key theme to the promise of agility and OPEX cost savings was echoed at the show. DT, Vodafone and ALU proclaimed that operations is as important as or more important than the technology itself. Vodafone’s main topic was in fact “operations driven transformation”. ALU supported this theme with a focus on how to make technology open and interoperable (key operational goals) and DT emphasized duality of the technological promise, balanced against the more limited reality in large part due to the immaturity of the operations/management stack.
DT’s Axel Clauberg gave the open source and open-interface movement a huge vote of support, in the face of all the challenges, by explaining how DT cannot, in the most mission critical parts of its network, implement anything other than open-source solution – he feels DT must have the multi-vendor flexibility to substitute solutions on DTs schedule, and remain on the most competitive leading edge of technology. DT wants to control its destiny.
If that sounds negative, don’t take it that way – the message was one of opportunity, with many speakers leaving unsaid “this is looking real enough to worry about practical matters”. And that leads me to another theme, summarized by Prodip Sen of HP when he remarked that “three years ago, at this conference, some of us got together and wrote a white paper. That white paper kicked off NFV. “He went on to point out what was obvious to the huge crowd – NFV is now a major focus of technical development and investment – in only three years. Simple, yes, but powerful perspective as to where we are the speed at which we are moving.
At the end of the day one panel discussed the challenges — and opportunities — of integrating “real-time MANO with legacy OSS and equipment” – in other words operating the E2E hybrid network. While many great points were raised, one comment stood out: “Many operators will be cautious about transforming their networks because transformation is risky which will lead to technology silos diminishing the benefits of agility. But the companies that do, are likely to be the winners.”
Grant Lenahan chaired a track dedicated to apps and the business case. In it the discussion focused on the work to improve the efficiency and productivity of managing broadband flows and broadband CPE. The interest lies in increasing competition and innovation in the underlying hardware platforms (e.g.: ensuring support for ARM processors), leveraging abstraction and open standards for that infrastructure.
This event also demonstrated the continued and growing vibrancy of the SDN/NFV/Cloud community and work effort. At over 1500 attendees, this was the largest event yet. Many senior executives that we spoke with had positive comments on both the number of attendees, and the quality – as it gains more and more attention from senior management at operators and suppliers.