It was déjà vu all over again. Among the most important SDN/NFV events held in the Netherlands at a large exhibition center. No we are not referring to ONS-Europe, which we chronicled recently, but rather the Layer123 SDN/NFV World Congress, which was held during the week of October 8, 2018 in the Hague.
The International City of Justice, also known as Den Haag (The Hague), was an excellent venue for the event, which enjoyed stellar weather as well (20s deg C). Attendees spanned the globe, and all segments of the industry were represented including Technology Consumers (Cable, Cloud, and CSP operators) and Technology providers (Solution Providers, Systems Integrators, and software, semiconductor, and technology firms). Over 1,500 attendees visited the conference over the week.
While never formally announced, the 2018 event also marked a major transition for this event as Layer123 was acquired by EuroMoney/Capacity Media. As one who has participated in virtually every Layer123 event since 2018, special acknowledgement is in order for two individuals whose contribution to the industry was huge as both SDN and NFV emerged from concept to reality.
Layer123 Co-Founders Mark Lum and Rob Jones will be leaving the organization to pursue their own interests. Both were fixtures in the community, and built from scratch a forum to share and contrast new ideas and best practices. Wishing both Mark and Rob all the best, as their presence will be missed.
Like virtually all events, attendance was a bit lower than in years past, in part because SDN and NFV are no longer the shiny objects they once were. In addition, there are no shortage of SDN events. However, participation remains strong across the board, and there was no shortage of familiar faces who have participated over the years.
In reflecting the dozens of sessions held over the week, a number of key observations emerge:
Operators are getting serious and so are their vendors
Among the world’s most prominent operators shared not only their vision, but progress to date and lessons learned as they navigate through their individual journeys. Keynotes speakers were from Colt, DT, KPN, Liberty Global NTT, Orange, Telefonica, Telstra, Verizon, Vodafone, among others.
One encouraging indicator is that their vendors are playing a major role in today’s SDN/ NFV rollouts. While many operators envision a future of open standards, open source, and operators taking the lead in development, it will continue to take time to transform their organizations to achieve those lofty goals. Acquiring the requisite skills mix remains an issue, training and certification, and development of new methodologies and business processes are just some of the issues cited by the operators.
Consequently, operators cannot and are not waiting, and are proceeding with trials, initial deployments, and broader deployments, working in concert with their vendors, systems integrators, etc. Multi-vendor deployments are not the norm, even though operators demand multi-vendor support for the major platforms they are investing in.
Remember SDN . . .
In spite of significant growth, and proven SDN Controllers supporting hundreds of millions of subscribers in full-scale deployment today, SDN was curiously absent at the conference. The one domain where SDN rose to the surface was multi-layer packet optical, which not surprisingly was where Carrier Grade SDN (which is how it was referred to by the Open Networking Foundation in the early days) originated from.
Speakers from the traditional optical firms including Adva, Ciena, Coriant/Infinera, shared not only their architecture, but their innovations in automated management, optimization, intelligence, and enhanced resiliency leveraging the SDN architecture. Operators in Asia in particular including NTT, DOCOMO, SKT, Telstra, among others also shared their experiences with SDN, and open controllers
But compared to Network Automation, NFV, and of course 5G, SDN was relatively modest. Perhaps it is an indication of success- the absence of SDN from our open networking dialogue since it is assumed to be viable??
Open Source Networking represents the vision, but Standards are becoming increasingly important
From the outset, both SDN and NFV were proclaimed to be destined for a future where open source replaced proprietary platforms to offer operators differentiation, commonality, and choice. While widespread adoption of open source networking platforms remains an important goal of the transformation, a number of operators are pursuing proprietary platforms, as open source projects continue to evolve and progress.
Nowhere is this more evident in the orchestration area, where industry leading solution providers were demonstrating proprietary platforms for a range of use cases. That is a far cry from the vision, but discussions with industry leaders reveal adoption of open source components, including OpenStack, OpenDaylight, ONAP, OSM, among others.
This in turn necessitates standards, to enable multi-vendor environments. Operators and vendors alike mentioned ETSI NFV ISG and MEF Lifecycle Services Orchestration (LSO) reference architecture, and TM Forum OpenAPI’s. This raises the ultimate questions on whether open networking evolves towards open source networking platforms, or alternatively, standardized APIs (with a mix of open source and proprietary components).
Life on the Edge remains a challenge
Another topic that elicited significant interest was Edge Computing. Operators expressed concern about the non-deterministic and uncertain behavior that the myriad of edge computing options. Vendors are seeking to capitalize through clever optimization and latency reduction techniques to allay those concerns. And a plethora of industry activities are underway to address a range of challenges associated with distributing the Cloud closer to customers. One thing remains clear- this will be a topic that will receive a great deal of attention in the year to come. At least until we have a common definition.