Most service providers are quickly embracing network virtualization technologies that are designed to make their network infrastructures more programmable, scalable, agile and affordable, according to analysts with IHS Markit.
In a survey of service providers this month, all respondents said they planned to deploy network-functions virtualization (NFV) technologies at some point, and 81 percent said they will do so by 2017, a report by the market research firm found. In addition, 59 percent of respondents said they either have deployed or will deploy NFV this year.
The adoption is an indication of the growing need by telecommunications vendors to change their IT environments in order to meet the growing demand from customers for more performance and bandwidth and the need to more quickly spin out applications and services to those customers and partners.
"These carriers believe that NFV and its software-defined networking (SDN) companion are a fundamental change in telecom network architecture that will deliver benefits in automation; new, more agile services and revenue; operational efficiency; and [capital expenditure] savings," Michael Howard, senior research director for carrier networks for IHS, said in a statement. "Many carriers in 2016 are moving from their NFV proof-of-concept (PoC) tests and lab investigations and evaluations to working with vendors that are developing and productizing the software, which is being deployed commercially."
NFV and SDN hold the promise of more agile and dynamic networks by moving the control plane and various network tasks—such as load balancing, intrusion prevention and detection, routing and firewalls—out of the complex and expensive network hardware and into software than can run on less-expensive industry-standard systems.
According to IHS' Howard, the approach by service providers to NFV is changing. Two years ago, the key challenge to adoption was operations and business support systems (OSS/BSS), he said. However, in 2015 and 2016, the top barriers were integrating NFV into existing networks and non-carrier-grade products, which Howard indicated that carriers are being increasingly more serious about deploying NFV.
Over the next year and going forward, most NFV deployments will be for business virtualized customer premises equipment (vE-CPE), which can help businesses increase revenue by enabling businesses to replace physical equipment with software, making it easier to develop and launch new services, he said.
"The industry is still in the early stages of a long-term transition to SDN and NFV architected networks," Howard said. "Carriers will learn that some avenues are not as fruitful as expected, and telecom equipment manufacturers and software suppliers may well invent new approaches that open up newfound applications."