As the world of fixed access moves steadily towards ubiquitous gigabit broadband, networks are becoming more complex, with multiple technologies in multiple deployment models, multi-vendor environments, and delay- and bandwidth-critical applications. SDN/NFV promises to help manage all this complexity. Virtualization creates an open environment where abstraction, programming and automation remove much of the complexity for operators.
Our industry has tried to avoid talking about “open” for many years – but virtualization is now paving the way to some interesting “open” use cases. It’s no coincidence that Federico Guillén, President of Fixed Networks at Nokia, has put it front and center in his keynote at Broadband World Forum. We’re embracing virtualization because we believe that openness will catalyze the next wave of innovation in ultra-broadband, and spur deployments. We’re going beyond the hype and are focusing on concrete use cases – where virtualization and openness are simply the best way to address a challenge, or where they will improve the operator’s business case.
One use case is network slicing, which allows operators to partition a network in different slices. Each slice comes with complete autonomy allowing different services and different service providers to converge on a single infrastructure. For example, an operator can use a single access network to deliver residential services, business services, and mobile transport – rather than building multiple networks. Multiple operators could co-invest or share a single network, reducing investment and risk. And that should see more operators laying more fiber in more places.
Openness not only enables us to do new things, but also to do old things better. For example, we’ve used virtualization to solve one of operators’ biggest headaches: multi-vendor interoperability. Introducing a new ONU to a network can take 3-6 months of painstaking, and costly, OMCI integration. So, in another world-first, we’ve virtualized the OMCI management to create an open environment where operators can integrate any ONT from any vendor, put its native OMCI “driver” into the cloud, and let our virtual solution do the rest. That means reduced costs, faster time-to-revenue, and greater operational agility.
How far can we go with open? Could everything be open source in the future? Yes and no. The agility that open source brings is inspiring for innovation. But as my colleague Filip de Greve explained in a blog earlier this year, without some level of standardization, open risks creating a wild west of unique, complex, and costly solutions. Like the Broadband Forum, we believe there is a need for a combination of standardization and openness, as has been achieved with the release of Open Broadband-Broadband Access Abstraction (OB-BAA). Standardization ensures a baseline of interoperability that drives mass market solutions; openness allows vendors to differentiate with value-added innovations on top.
We’re on the cusp of a golden era of virtualization in fixed access and we intend to embrace it with open arms, because we believe it will help you make your networks truly open for business. Come and talk to us at Broadband World Forum to learn more.
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