SINGAPORE, May 31 – Xura, Inc., a leading provider of digital communications services, recently announced the findings of research that has revealed that 70 percent of communications service providers (CSPs) plan to virtualize some or all of their messaging platforms in the next four years.
The global research project, commissioned by Xura and carried out by Heavy Reading, assessed the progress, market timing, business and technical drivers, and challenges related to the virtualization of messaging services through the implementation of network functions virtualization (NFV).
Report author, Jim Hodges, senior analyst, commented, “What makes this level of commitment so profound is that it is driven by a broad range of technical and business drivers. For example, on the technical side, CSPs cite Operational Efficiency followed by Network Scale and Elasticity as the top two drivers, while on the business side CSPs are moving messaging solutions into the cloud to achieve not only Service Agility and Flexibility, but also Hardware Related Opex Reduction and Capex Reduction.”
The research found that the messaging services CSPs prioritized for migration to an NFV-based virtualized platform in 2016 were SMS (27%), followed by Spam/Fraud messaging control (22%), and then IP Messaging (21%). David Spann, VP technology and architecture at Xura, said it’s clear that CSPs are looking to virtualize the services that are most heavily used – like SMS – on the network first and then align the launch of brand new services that may not yet be offered, like IP messaging, with deployments in NFV.
He said, interestingly, those services like MMS that have probably taken the biggest hit from over-the-top (OTT) applications seem to be furthest down the priority list, with nearly a third (31%) saying they had no plans to virtualize this service as yet.Across the range of messaging platforms that CSPs were asked about, the most formidable NFV implementation challenges from a technical standpoint were product interworking, orchestration and migration complexity.
They also ranked cultural challenges and business case definition as the top two business implementation challenges that their organizations face. Spann added, “When you consider the impact on an organization’s culture that virtualization and the move to NFV will have, part of the issue will be with who has responsibility for the service implementation and delivery. Will it be the network team, the value added services team or the IT department; who manages the budget, the platform and the team that will have responsibility for running it on a day to day basis?”
Another key finding of the research was that there is no clear consensus over which cloud orchestration framework CSPs want NFV virtualized messaging applications to support. Over 40 percent of respondents indicated they wanted support for OpenStack – using integrated in-house contractors, telecom vendors or integrators – as well as VMware.
“OpenStack is gaining real credibility as a carrier grade framework in the market place, but given the continued demand for VMWare, and to a lesser extent Microsoft Azure (10%), it’s clear that solutions need to be agnostic in their support for different orchestration and virtualization environments,” commented Spann.
As already indicated though, orchestration is considered to be one of the biggest implementation challenges, and while over half (55%) of respondents said they would like to utilize a single management and orchestration (MANO) orchestrator, they also concede that this will be difficult.
On the concerns of CSPs with orchestration, Hodges said, “Orchestration is still an issue for commercial deployments and there is a concern that CSPs will be forced into deploying a number of vendor specific VNF orchestrators, which adds both cost and complexity into any virtualization migration.”
Spann also added that, “It will be interesting to see how the seven percent of the respondents that are planning to use a single MANO orchestrator turn out, because they could set the template for where the rest of the industry moves to in the next few years.”
Hodges concluded, “The deployment of NFV will increasingly transform CSPs into cloud operators. By doing so it enables CSPs to go on the offensive with message service delivery, a capability they have lacked for a number of years. In the next four years, there will be a period of sustained activity that will see CSPs undertake the migration of many of their messaging services to the Cloud, to reap a whole range of benefits, and elegantly meet the perpetually evolving needs of their customers.