Some CSPs are still searching for virtualization business cases: report

The TM Forum's latest tracker survey found that almost half of the communications service providers didn't have a business case for virtualization. (TM Forum)

It's a slow-moving train when it comes to communications service providers (CSPs) finding their respective business cases for virtualization, according to a report.

The TM Forum's latest Digital Transformation Tracker found that 48% of CSPs in its survey have yet to find a business case for virtualization. This despite, 44% of them saying that they believed network transformations would play a key role the success of their digital transformations.

There is evidence of progress, albeit incremental at this point as CSPs move from the awareness and planning phases of transformation to the implementation phase. Among the survey respondents, 5% said their companies have now started transformation migrations, which was up from 40% in the first survey last year.

From the glass half full side of the survey, nearly a third (32%) of CSPs said they were deploying NFV in the packet core while 36% are deploying NFV at the mobile edge or have deployed virtual customer premise equipment (vCPE).

Also of note, fewer respondents admitted to having no timetable for virtualization (23%) in the latest survey, compared with the first survey (30%) in 2017.

RELATED: NFV is still not living up to its full potential

When asked to rank the challenges of network transformation, over half (60%) of respondents said the need to implement new versions of agile OSS/BSS was their primary concern.

A further 56% cited security vulnerabilities, while 52% said they were concerned about lengthy time frames for mature industry standards.

“The telecoms industry first started to embrace the concepts of network virtualization and software-defined networking eight or nine years ago. Today, it appears the majority of CSPs are moving from the awareness and planning phases of transformation to deployment of VNFs. This progress is a positive thing, albeit a lot slower than expected”, said Mark Newman, chief analyst at TM Forum and the author of the report, in a prepared statement. “However, the deployment of these virtual network functions has not had the transformative impact that many CSPs were hoping for. As a result, many are now moving beyond virtualization to full network cloudification.

While network functions virtualization has proved to be complex, CSPs aren't taking advantage off all of the tools that simplify and help automate virtualization processes. The majority of the respondents (67%) said they haven't implemented DevOps practices and approaches their network teams. On the other hand, 77% of CSPs said that DevOps approaches and practices had been successfully deployed within their IT teams.

Open source communities have also had an impact on CSPs and their vendor suppliers. For larger CSP organizations, it represents an opportunity to lower costs and to take back control of technology and roadmaps by breaking up proprietary products. For smaller CSPs, it’s an opportunity to cultivate symbiotic relationships with multiple vendors to break free from legacy vendor lock-in. 

With the move toward software-centric networks, services and applications, the survey said there was a significant drive to recruit more software developers. Currently, more than a third (34%) of the CSPs employ 100 to 250 software developers today, but they expect those software developer numbers to reach at least 500 within the next two years. For smaller CSPs, it’s an opportunity to cultivate symbiotic relationships with multiple vendors, rather than be subject to vendor lock-in. 

Over the past summer, the TM Forum surveyed 160 CSP employees across six countries for the latest results. TM Forum conducts its tracker report twice a year.