NFV Operating Models – How to Mix Oil and Water (also known as IT Operations and Network Operations)

Network Function Virtualization (NFV) brings the concept of a common, virtualized infrastructure (now prevalent in most Telecom IT shops) to the core network.  Virtualized Network Functions (VNFs) such as Virtual Evolved Packet Core (vEPC) will operate on a robust, highly available infrastructure. I explored the myths and realities of NFV in my blog last month.

Today, I want to focus on an often-overlooked question: “Who will operate the VNFs and NFV infrastructure? IT or Network?”

This topic is hugely important – for a variety of reasons.  Furthermore, it is an extremely sensitive and political debate dealing with organizational roles and responsibilities – especially in this age of downsizing.   Obviously, a blend of both organizations could be a straightforward solution.  Yet, perceptions have developed in each organization that could inhibit this blend – just as oil and water won’t mix.

And I won’t even try to compare this situation to worldwide politics (Conservatives vs. Liberals, etc.) – but the analogy is similar.  Any analysis to prepare to answer this question must begin with an understanding of the aforementioned long standing perceptions.

While at AT&T, I ran several network operations organizations responsible for core network functions in the Northern California area plus Hawaii.  While at Verizon, I was Group CIO for Network Systems – responsible for development and operations of IT systems that supported Verizon’s network organization.  Based on the above, I have experienced both sides of the debate.  Here’s just one example comparison that outlines the major perceptions:

Area Network’s Perception of IT Operations IT’s Perception of Network Operations
Availability/Keeping systems up IT doesn’t run anywhere close to 5 nines availability – how can they run an NFV infrastructure? 5 nines availability is not the issue – the key is developing management and orchestration procedures to keep virtual machines and VNFs operating to meet the demand.  Network doesn’t have experience in this approach.

How do you overcome such deep-seated perceptions and design an organizational approach that will be successful in operating NFV?  Dell EMC has excellent experience here.  A few excerpts from an upcoming white paper on this topic are next.

Considerations to design a blended organization to operate NFV (Partial List):

  • Involve both organizations in the planning activity.
  • Hire an independent consultant to help design the ‘to-be’ organizations. Dell EMC Professional Services has deep experience in performing these types of projects.  Our heritage in virtualized infrastructure coupled with our Telecom Network experience bridges the gaps and builds instant credibility with your teams.
  • Both Network and IT operations organizations have similar processes and functions – start with grouping similar functions.
  • Apply ‘-as-a-Service’ mindsets to the project. This includes modernizing processes to enable significant self-service and automatic management and orchestration for NFV and corresponding VNFs.

Final thoughts:

  • There is no “right” answer – all choices involve trade-offs. The best approach is to ask “what is the right approach for my company right now?”
  • Multiple viable options can exist – depending on the current state of operations in both entities
  • Balance structural changes and accountability with process efficiency
  • Choices don’t have to be permanent. It’s ok to design a roadmap that is an evolution rather than a flash cut and/or radical answer that may further harden divisions between Network and IT organizations.

Want more details on how to successfully mix oil and water?  Please contact me to receive an upcoming Dell EMC white paper with our complete approach to this dilemma.

Don’t miss: Make sure to check-out my recent blog series and whitepaper focused on NFV Deployment.

I hope you will join me and will pass on the link to your friends and networks. Please … subscribe, send me feedback, and check back for the next installment. If nothing else, I promise the Travel Tips will be extremely useful!

Today’s Travel Tip:   Where to hike when visiting Las Vegas

Just heard that Dell EMC World (Bigger and Better!) is confirmed for May, 2017 in Las Vegas.

This event will showcase Dell EMC solutions and include our Telecom portfolio of Products and Services.

I know that the schedule is jam packed with speakers, seminars and evening activities, but there are at least two hiking trails nearby for those of you desiring an outdoor adventure.  The following are my personal experiences – try one or both!

    1. Just an hour’s drive from the Las Vegas strip is Red Rock Canyon.
      This state park provides easy access to spectacular red bluffs and desert flora and fauna (e.g. Tortoise).  You can drive the loop entirely or stop and take one of several loop trails.  Bring water and snacks.  Total time needed (hotel door to door) is 3-4 hours.
    2. For the more adventurous, try the Mary Jane Falls Trail in the Spring Mountains Recreation Area which includes Mount Charleston. .
      This challenging trail starts at about 7800 feet above sea level and goes up from there to almost 9000 feet above sea level.  About 3 miles out and back, or more than 1.5 hours round trip.  Great views of the mountains and valleys – and yes there are two falls at the end (top) of the trail.  Bring water, snacks and a sweatshirt.  Closest restaurant is Mt. Charleston Resort for a solid meal. Total time needed (hotel door to door) is 4-5 hours.

About the Author: Laddie Suk

Laddie leads a cross-functional Dell Technologies Consulting team focused on digital transformation and industry solutions. He is a seasoned industry veteran with deep experience across multiple industries, solutions, and technologies. As a former Verizon Network CIO and Network Executive at AT&T and Bell Labs, he has extensive hands-on experience in leading strategic network and IT development projects and managing communication service provider environments. He has also led strategic and tactical engagements in network transformation, IT transformation, and business process and performance improvement for clients throughout the Americas.