An interesting article recently on Light Reading talked about whether NFV is “in the doldrums” or not. It is a really good read, and I think a lot of what I had been talking about in the state of NFV blogs refers to just this question. There has been a ton of hype about NFV, and people are getting frustrated with the lack of results that have occurred. This is because of the general lack of maturity in the tooling around NFV that will allow it to realize all of its promise. As I mentioned in my last blog there has been a lot of unrealistic expectations in this area as vendors and open source groups have talked about capabilities that are, in some cases, vaporware at the moment. Each new release of software makes this less true, but we are still a little ways off from my thoughts on this changing.
A valid question is whether the vision put forth by NFV, as well as SDN…the main topic of my last blog, is just too big to be put in place reasonably soon? Probably, which drives the more concrete thinkers out there absolutely bonkers. To them this in one more thing they have been told was going to make ALL of their problems go away, just to turn out to be yet another bag of hype that couldn’t do what everybody said. That kind of thing happening hampers the chance for more forward thinkers to deploy these new technologies within their networks.
If we, as an industry, can temper our enthusiasm…especially those of us that like to spend our days thinking of tomorrow or next year instead of what can be done TODAY to operationalize the network…then we can avoid giving NFV such a bad name. Vendors selling NFV solutions are the worst at this. They respond to RFPs with a list of capabilities that are at best months out, and often further than that. They get customers hyped to spend money, and then disappoint those customers with a subpar product and promises of, “well, that should be in the next release.” This behavior is damaging to that vendor and the industry at large. It is way too common.
I do think, despite this troubling behavior, that there is plenty of wind left in the NFV sails. Open source communities are building on the momentum of things such as OpenDaylight and OpenStack to put NFV focused solutions in place. These are not mature yet, either, but their community-based approach means openness and transparency into what is real and what is not. As service providers use things like OpenStack, and are pleasantly surprised that it does really work, a confidence is building to look to more and more open source alternatives. I think this is where NFV will find its success long term. The vendors that figure out how to participate in this ecosystem and leverage what is being built are going to win, and win big in my opinion.