Vodafone's chief systems architect has added his voice to the growing chorus of complaints about the immaturity of NFV solutions being developed by network vendors.
Speaking during a Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. breakfast briefing at TM Forum Live! this week, Lester Thomas said the virtual network functions (VNFs) he had seen were not "built from the ground up for the cloud" to give operators the flexibility they crave.
"They tend to make traditional network elements software-based," he told an audience of senior executives from the service provider community. "Just virtualizing it doesn't make it elastic and self-healing so the next stage is to take systems and make them easy to deploy and scale."
Like a number of other leading telco executives, Thomas wants vendors to work on developing microservices that would allow operators to "cloudify" their networks and realize greater business benefits.
With a microservice, network functions are decomposed into small individual components that operators can re-use and recompose to create customized, scalable applications.
Earlier this week, Gagan Puranik, the director of SDN and NFV architecture planning for Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), similarly complained about the lack of progress in the microservices area. "They give us big VNFs… but we need to develop micro releases so that we can drop incremental upgrades into the network," he said during a presentation at TM Forum Live! on Monday. (See Verizon Demands Better NFV 'Answers' From Vendors.)
Caroline Chappell, practice leader of cloud and NFV at Heavy Reading , thinks network vendors may have little incentive to introduce microservices given their existing investments and business models.
For more NFV-related coverage and insights, check out our dedicated NFV content channel here on Light Reading.
Despite signs of growing service provider frustration on the NFV front, other operators have expressed wariness about deploying microservices. While noting their attractions when it comes to improving scalability and making it easier to carry out upgrades, Peter Willis, chief researcher of data networks for the UK's BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA), has also flagged concern that -- by exposing interfaces externally -- microservices could generate cost, complexity and performance issues. (See The Real NFV Revolution Is 5 Years Away.)
Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD)'s Thomas also took the opportunity to laud Huawei's BSS capability as one that is "truly cloud-native" during the Chinese vendor's breakfast briefing. "I don't see the same maturity in network function that we see in your BSS software," he told Huawei executives at the event.
Despite the complaints about NFV immaturity, Vodafone is forging ahead with a network transformation based on SDN and NFV technologies.
Under the codename of "Ocean," Vodafone claims to have virtualized much of its network already with a view to reducing costs. (See BCE 2016: Vodafone to Make Waves With Its 'Ocean' Virtualization Strategy.)
Yesterday, the operator became one of nine service providers to back the TM Forum 's Open APIs initiative. Thomas reckons the move will help Vodafone to launch new business models and generate new sources of revenue. (See 9 Global Telcos Back Open APIs Scheme.)
"This will make a huge difference to the industry," he said. "It supports the whole notion of digital ecosystems and cooperation."
— Iain Morris, , News Editor, Light Reading, Editor-in-Chief, Telco Transformation