Virtualisation will help operators reduce their dependence on network equipment providers that have dictated the pace of network development for so long. But it will not remove the complexity from monitoring the network environment. In fact virtualization of the networks actually increases the complexity of the networks because the network functions are now running in software modules on COTS infrastructure. Operators will increasingly find themselves in system integrator roles as the infrastructure is not from the same vendor who is providing the software network functions. It will lead to a proliferation of vendors and a patchwork of different systems.
Monitoring and optimizing the performance of the virtualized environment becomes even more challenging as the operators now not only need a horizontal network view (EPC plus IMS) but they also need to understand the vertical view (network plus the infrastructure) layered on top of the horizontal network view which will lead into new opportunities connecting both views together.
In the event of a problem or a potential issue, a real time diagnostics tool will not be sufficient to truly resolve the issue, historical data is critical to fully troubleshoot the problem. Visibility of all systems from different vendors will still be integral in a virtualised environment, which depends on having the right service assurance tools in place.
Will the NFV model change the role of network operations and engineering?
The move to virtualisation gives operators a platform to redesign their operations from the ground up, moving away from being an engineering-led, network-centric organisation towards a service-centric business. Virtualisation will also lead to a fundamental change in the way networks are controlled, which will necessitate a completely different approach to network and employee management.
Network engineers and support teams that have worked with physical infrastructure for decades will need to redesign existing processes. It’s inevitable that there will be a period of adjustment for an operator’s workforce, which may generate additional jobs as new skillsets are required. With this in mind, although NFV does represent a cost saving in the long run, operators will need to factor in staff training to ensure their work force also makes the transition from a physical to a virtualised environment.