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Carriers have embraced the proposed benefits of network functions virtualization (NFV), including network programmability, lower costs, and the ability to deliver new services to enterprise customers. However, NFV adoption has been lower than expected over the last six years due to the complexity software introduces into the network. In October 2019, Omdia conducted a survey of 150 operators to learn about their attitudes and behaviors towards NFV adoption. One question focused on the challenges operators have in deploying NFV. The major concerns are around security, bridging legacy infrastructure and new software systems, and multidomain management and orchestration (MANO).

The industry has made strides in some of these challenges, not the least of which is the acceptance of cloud-native principles in networking. Cloud-native architectures enable simplified management of hybrid networking and will help operators deploy NFV as an evolutionary step towards telco cloud. Telco cloud is essentially "NFV at scale." It is deployed as a distributed, virtualized, and intelligent platform and, as opposed to initial NFV deployments, supports multivendor virtual network functions and network services. Other benefits of the telco cloud include:

  • Automation and orchestration to increase service velocity and reduce errors, as well as to coordinate both network resources (SDN) and network functions.

  • Scalability to scale up/scale down virtual network functions.

  • Flexibility to make it easier for operators to build and connect services.

  • Interoperability across operators' networking environments, (i.e., core, edge, private cloud, and public cloud).

NFV adoption is gaining momentum since operators now know that applying cloud-native principles in NFV is the direction they need to go to compete in 5G. Some 51% of surveyed operators have moved from the proof of concept stage and have deployed NFV into the network. Omdia expects NFV/virtualization will continue to be an essential part of operators' larger network transformation strategy, and only in the telco cloud can operators truly realize the benefits NFV promises.