Ahead of Network Virtualization Europe 2017 we caught up with 2017 speakers Sergio Pozo and Davide Cherubini, the Network Virtualization and SDN/NFV Architects at Vodafone. We caught up about the current state of virtualization, the lessons learnt so far and their predictions for the future of the space.
1. How important is Virtualization to them as a company and what investment level will your organisation be making to this?
Vodafone Ocean is the Company-wide transformation for SDN and NFV and is pivotal to the Company’s 5 years Strategy.
Vodafone Ocean is fundamentally a one-of-a-kind transformation in the Industry because it was built to address the transformational needs of many Operators (more than 50) that are part of the Vodafone family. Vodafone Ocean is transversal to all of the work streams of the Strategy (e.g., Core & Infrastructure, Enterprise Product & Services, Security) and it is built upon a unique collaboration between the teams in Technology, Operations and Engineering.
2. What will be the overall impact/ what has been the overall impact of virtualization?
A dramatic change in the mind-set of the current organization. Technology is leading the Network Virtualization transformation in collaboration with Operations and Engineering.
Ocean defines new Product and Services for Enterprises where Customers can benefit of self-serve service configuration, quasi-instantaneous activation and advanced Analytics-based Service Assurance. It also creates a wide range of new business opportunities.
Multi-vendor solutions are also key in Ocean, where best-in-breed technology can be combined to offer the best end-to-end service ever. Of course, challenges still exist around standardisation of interfaces and Data Models.
3. What lessons have they taken away from deployment?
There are Technology challenges that need to be addressed when new technologies are deployed in complex Organizations like Vodafone. Education across the entire organization is key for an effective deployment. We work in a multivendor environment (not easy to manage in an everyday's job) aiming the deployment of standard interfaces.
Vodafone is leading the APIs definition with TMF at service orchestration level and also participating actively in any single standard organization pushing for a better coordination between them, as we are missing a single pane of glass in the standards, with different bodies working in parallel.
We are also looking for the best experts in SDN & NFV that can help us in this challenging transformation journey.
4. Where are they with virtualizing their network?
Vodafone is a company present in many countries, and Ocean is unique because it involves 26 OpCos + our Partner Market. In total we are considering more than 50 Countries, with each operator having different requirements and conditions. We are in a very good shape though, progressing really quick with the Core virtualization of our portfolio and additional services are planned to be launched in 5-7 Countries.
5. Do they feel that SDN currently has a more solidified business case?
We are deploying SDN for transport, Overlay and Overlay/underlay interoperability.
We have recently awarded Nokia Nuage and Juniper Contrail for SDN-based DataCenter interconnection and for SDN based GI-LAN. Very soon we will finalize the selection of the SDN controller for the CPE and of the CPEs for our Enterprise Customers (as part of our Universal Access strategy)
6. Are they implementing SD WAN? What is the approximate ROI for SD WAN (if so)
Vodafone will launch SD WAN services as part of Ready Network soon. Among many other things, as part of its unique Enterprise journey, Vodafone Ocean provides the technology for Ready Network.
SD WAN is included in the upcoming deployment of new multivendor SDN/NFV products for our Enterprise customers, leveraging a Service Chain-based architecture:
o VPN+ is our next generation Enterprise VPN mega-product of Vodafone that is cross-countries, cross-networks, cross-clouds, SDN/NFV-based, self-configured, open (i.e., interfaces and interactions between different vendors are non-proprietary), Analytics-based, zero-touch provisioning enabled and allows customers to create the service according to their needs, to remotely monitor the service and to enjoy the best ever network (and Customer) experience. VPN+ has many "plus" (hence the name) with the most innovative being it is Service Chain based, enabling our Customers to add/remove functions and applications in real time on top of the VPN (e.g., FW, Security, Office365,...).
7. How does virtualization impact operations?
Among the family of Use cases defined for the Ocean transformation, we are delivering the centralization of virtualized services in Europe. Instead of running many country-based dedicated systems, we will run a centrally operated service.
The operational model and efficiency will be improved by such a model with a dramatic reduction of cost and problem resolution time.
We are proud to say that we have already delivered our Common Messaging Service (CMS) in Europe (activity led by our Group Network Engineering Organization).
Vodafone Ocean is – by definition – an operations driven transformation, meaning that Operations and Engineering teams are intrinsically part of the strategy and of any RFx process.
8. Cultural shift: How has your organisation approached the shift from traditional telco infrastructure to IT focused infrastructure?
As we are approaching a virtualized world, we see the opportunity of merging these two, for the moment, isolated environments. The number of opportunities is huge but at the same time the transition must be done in the more smooth way. That's why we will do it from the bottom to the top, converging the infrastructure in order to enable our architecture (e.g. Orchestration layer) to manage any of both environments in the same way. Our customers will be able to use VNFs and also IT applications without seen any difference leveraging the ability of our platform of chaining different applications in a seamless way. For example, we are adopting one single VIM that will serve both IT and telco with the very same operations processes.
9. How does a virtualized network provide the opportunity for a more efficient, customer centric network?
Vodafone Ocean based networks are designed to meet customer needs in a dynamic and automated way. Our aim is to deliver an always-on network that leverages Self-configurability and Service function chaining for flexibility and advanced Analytics for unprecedented service assurance and Customer experience.
Vodafone organizational structure is very unique (26 Operating Companies) and the Ocean guidelines enable cross-Country, cross-networks and cross-clouds services.
Our platform is able to understand the customer needs in any moment, using analytics capabilities and a self-configurable approach the customer will have the feeling of having its own network, dynamic, flexible and proactive, following its needs in nearly real-time.
10. How do you envisage virtualization in the context of future networks?
Providing flexibility with the proper capabilities on the top layers of the architecture. By leveraging Big Data Analytics, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning in combination with virtualization, future networks will offer to Customers the most efficient experience ever.
In addition Vodafone Ocean is the key enabler for the delivering of 5G and Network Slicing, an unique opportunity for putting the network on our customer's hands, with exclusive and customized services everywhere and every time. cloud native, Vodafone turning in a software and cloud is key to the future network.
11. If you were to offer three key takeaways from commercial deployment, what would they be?
We just started Commercial deployment and we are facing many challenges. Over the last months we defined a one-of-a-kind pricing model for Orchestrator and SDN Controllers.
Those products are still under development and will be used both locally and globally, so it was critical to understand how our vendors would have charged us.
Vodafone Procurement Company, that is also playing a critical role in the Ocean transformation, has achieved an important milestone with defining a better and very simple pricing model for Vodafone.
Multi-vendor solutions and Open (not necessarily Open-Source, but definitely not proprietary) interfaces and Data model are challenges that the Industry needs to promptly address.
12. Is network virtualization ready for containers?
For sure it is. Containerization is an already available technology and it is used by some of our vendors. Containers are part of the Ocean Cloud Nativeness journey, where we aim to maximize the benefits of cloud-native (Generation 3.0) VNFs. We are also looking into modern software development techniques, such as DevOps.
Our Ocean end-to-end architecture is Open and "cloud-native". On the other hand, cloud native applications are still at an immature stage and our vendors need to address some additional challenges (e.g., around security).
13. What are you hoping to get out of Network Virtualization Europe 2017?
Naturally, we expect many technology leaders from different service providers and vendors to attend. This is a great opportunity to meet them all and to discuss our different journeys, challenges, and solutions.
To learn more about Network Virtualization Europe 2017 click here or to book your tickets click here. Don't miss out on the FREE OPERATOR PASSES to the event, for more information about how to apply for one click here