Verizon's CIO warns of 'mind-numbing complexity' in move to virtualized network

Verizon's (NYSE: VZ) CIO Radhika Venkatraman said the carrier doesn't plan to hire thousands of additional workers to virtualize its network functions. Instead, Venkatraman said Verizon is hoping to work with its suppliers on the transition -- as long as those suppliers can make the move simple and cheap.

"The immediate answer is not hiring another thousand people and writing everything ourselves," Venkatraman said during a recent keynote presentation at a TM Forum event, according to short article from the association. "We want to enter this journey together [with our suppliers] and solve it together."

Venkatraman's comments underscore carriers' wider concerns as they work to cut costs out of their networks by moving to a software-defined network design where network functions are virtualized in the cloud. AT&T (NYSE: T), Verizon and other telcos have made some tentative moves in this area, though industry observers agree that this transition could take a decade or longer.

"If suppliers give us the same thing running on their hardware and put it on a VM [virtual machine], that's not going to cut it because we're going to have to make everything interoperate," Venkatraman said of the move. "We'll have to map the orchestration to every network function and make every network function talk to every other, and then very soon you have mind-numbing complexity."

Venkatraman stressed that Verizon needs to work with its vendors and suppliers in order to ensure its move to SDN and NFV will be successful. She added that Verizon doesn't want to pay the same price for software products as it already does for hardware products -- "We get nothing if the cost just shifts," she said.

Verizon isn't alone in working through the SDN and NFV transition; AT&T too is working on re-educating its employees to handle a software-based network design. "We know we're going to need more data scientists over the next few years," AT&T's John Donovan said recently. "The reality is we'll have more slots than there will be folks in the job market to fill. We have employees reskilling themselves after spending years focusing on legacy products and environments, such as TDM switching, to become data scientists."

AT&T has said it is on track to virtualize 30 percent of its network applications by the end of the year.

Verizon too is working to move to virtualized, software-driven technologies. In 2015, Verizon created live SDN lab environments in San Jose, California, Tampa, Florida, and Waltham, Massachusetts, and has commercial data center environments on both the East and West Coasts. The telco also named five of its key vendor partners: Cisco, Ericsson (NASDAQ: ERIC), Juniper Networks and Nokia (NYSE:NOK), among others.

For more:
- see this TM Forum Inform article

Related articles:
AT&T's Donovan: Our workforce is 'reskilling' to be data scientists
As AT&T, Verizon and CenturyLink migrate to SDN, reliability and service agility are top priorities
AT&T's Donovan: 2016 is a critical year in virtualizing our network

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