In 2017, upcoming trends in cloud will reveal whether the cloud, NFV and SDN can be effective business-level options for enterprise customers that need operations and management automation.

For telecom trends, 2017 will reveal the direction of operator services for years to come. Three revolutionary models for service-building – the cloud, software-defined networking and network functions virtualization – have emerged and been tested enough in labs to validate them at the functional level.

The success of NFV and carrier cloud would go a long way toward establishing software-defined networking (SDN) in Enterprise space, as well as value in a many greenfield data center is fairly easy to establish, so SDN/NFV investment in data centers would create large opportunities for enterprise and SME customers to go more affordable and maintenance free. Today, companies spend more on software than on servers, and if that changes in a big way through the use of distributed hosting, SDN gets a big boost. The benefit is that NFV and the cloud would increase SDN spending.

Operators have possible missions for SDN in the WAN, including support for tunnel and optical routing. The most compelling probably require SDN to create application communities in the data center that can then be extended to the user in virtual private network (VPN) and VLAN-type services. SDN in the WAN success with network operators, extending NFV and cloud services, would generate a significant deployment and create massive changes in operator investment at Layer 2 and Layer 3.

A mixture of SDN and NFV concepts will start to appear from 2017 onwards to challenge traditional switching and routing for most business services, and if strong trends continue, many companies will jump on the bandwagon for such subscription utility based services. A VPN or VLAN that is built on switch and router technology today could be created by using SDN tunnels between routers hosted as virtual CPE. This approach is not new and its adoption is getting more and more pervasive, and some big enterprises are already trying out the approach, with local to regional to global rollouts in time to come.

Even here, we have a dependency on management and operations modernization. Any service based on virtual components creates a disconnect between managing how the service appears and the resources that actually create it. Virtual VPNs could be presented to users looking like traditional VPNs in a management sense, but network operators themselves have to see what’s really inside a service to maintain the service level agreement. Modernization of OSS, BSS and network management systems could resolve this and sustain efficient management, as well as lower TCO.

Overall, 2017 is a year when operations management could become more than just billing and customer care. If OSS and BSS vendors can link SDN and NFV silos and build service agility and operations efficiency above both SDN and NFV, the opportunities to make a business case for these critical new network technologies will migrate to OSS and BSS systems and vendors. If OSS and BSS vendors fail, then it will be up to those few NFV vendors that can make the broad business case to drive both SDN and NFV forward.

Cloud SDN / NFV Trends