15 June 2015

Two Innovation Cycles for Softwarization

SDN and NFV principles are going to impact not only the evolution of current networks, but also the services and applications platforms. It would be very limitative considering SDN and NFV only from the networking perspective.

In fact, Softwartization will be a systemic and impactful change of paradigm in whole Telecommunications and ICT domains, with far reaching consequences in the value-chain: it won’t be just like introducing a new transport or networking technology or new network layer (as it was for SDH, IP/MPLS, etc).

We know very well that, in the past, Telecommunications infrastructures were always built with purpose-built equipment designed for specific functions; these pieces of equipment were provided by Technology Providers as “closed boxes”, including the hardware, software and its operating system. 
When introducing a new technology or network layer, a waterfall innovation approach was normally adopted. Softwartization is a game changer. Waterfall innovation is dead.

In the future, the decoupling of software from the hardware, the virtualization of IT and network physical resources and growing availability of Open Source software will change the scenario: it will be possible to develop and manage network and service functions as “applications”, made of chains of open source software components interconnected via logical links.
The software mindset is eating the Telecommunications.

In this respect, it is likely that Softwarization will be exploited by Industry with a bimodal approach, through two innovation cycles: one relatively slow, looking at a seamless evolution of current network infrastructures towards SDN-NFV, and another one much faster, where Softwarization will pave the way to integrated network and service software platforms. A totally different scenario with respect to past times.

These two cycles will coexist bringing to the deployment of “softwarized” network and service domains, operated with IT-style processes and capable of providing specific end-to-end services. 

These “softwarized” network and service domains will emerge here and there and coexist for some time with the legacy infrastructures. A key issue will be the cross-interoperability of these “softwarized” domains, which should be pursued since the beginning - by design – i.e., by embedding interoperability features and capabilities into these horizontal platforms.