If you are a fan of Greek mythology, then you know that Cerberus was the three-headed dog that guarded the gates of Hades.  This monster kept the dead from escaping.  When you are on a journey to NFV transformation, sometimes you may feel you cannot escape from your own personal Hades.  As my colleague Ben Bekele wrote recently, we sponsored research interviews with your service provider peers to understand some of the ways they have tamed the monstrous challenges faced on this journey.

What we found is that service providers most often chose one of three pathways for their transformation journeys.  However, most had to manage elements from each of the three at some point, like dealing with Cerberus.  I have listed the three pathways in the box below.

When choosing a path of technology evolution, you attempt to bound the problem by implementing NFV for a small set of functions or subsystems.  This approach enables you to limit risks and is not typically dependent on broad organizational involvement or change.  You can build a strong business case for this well-defined step toward NFV to address a specific need like virtual Evolved Packet Core, whether the move is part of a broader strategy or not.  Such an approach can narrow your focus too much, though.  You might ignore the ultimate need to engage more broadly across your organization to break down silos among teams as automation or software-based networking blurs boundaries.  Also, measuring success may require you to develop new KPIs different from those from the world of physical appliance-based solutions.

You can approach NFV with a more strategic eye toward what your customers want from your service offerings.  Service-led innovation allows your business opportunity to drive the requirements for the technology you employ.  You focus on what it takes to build a new service to deliver the business outcomes your customers want.  For example, businesses may be seeking simplicity, self-service, and lower costs from a managed service like SD-WAN.  You select the functions, automation, and deployment model to deliver those outcomes and to meet your agility and business model needs. To drive market penetration, though, you may need to educate customers on how the new services are different and how they can take advantage of the benefits the services offer.

The third pathway starts with full-fledged organizational transformation.  As the study shows, nearly half of the study participants started with a focus on organizational transformation.  Moving more holistically to an NFV and SDN environment means changing organizational culture, up-skilling your talent pool, and operating more like a web company.  Automation and dev/ops can bring agility, accelerate innovation, and open new opportunities, but only when your teams are set up for success.  They need to understand how this change helps you compete, helps them develop and grow, and helps build a foundation for delivering future services.  You need to bring them on the journey right from the start.

The research also revealed the top goals SPs have for NFV and SDN.  First and foremost, service providers seek greater agility.  They need this to compete more effectively and to respond more rapidly to customer needs and market opportunities.  Second, they seek to achieve greater network efficiency.  With this they can optimize how they deliver services.  The interviews identify several other reasons SPs are building their futures on NFV and SDN, as well.

We will be sharing more highlights from this research in the coming weeks.  We will delve into the challenges SPs face in greater detail – including the top ten they identified.  We will also explore the many of the ways they overcame those challenges.  In the meantime, you can download the report.


Sidney Kriger

Senior Manager of Business & Technology Architectures

Worldwide Service Provider Marketing