With a new year and the start of a new decade only three weeks away, it’s time to look forward. What developments can we expect to see in the world of network function virtualization (NFV) in 2020?

1. More churn in the SD-WAN space

After years of acquisitions in the SD-WAN space, there was a pause in 2019. But the overall churn continued. The biggest news was ADTRAN entering the market with their SD-WAN offering. I think that 2020 will be much more active. There are still too many SD-WAN players, and I predict some will go away – either through acquisitions or fire sales. 

2. AT&T adds COTS servers

AT&T says their FlexWare universal CPE (uCPE) service runs “on industry-standard x86 servers that we call the AT&T FlexWare Devices.” But their “AT&T FlexWare Devices” are simply re-badged versions of the Juniper NFX250.

Juniper NFX250 and AT&T FlexWare

As such, AT&T is limited in the variety of supported lineups of CPU, memory and storage. They are missing out on one of the biggest benefits of virtualization – the use of right-sized commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) servers. I predict that in 2020 AT&T will add (or at least start to move towards adding) a truly open platform based on a COTS server from a major manufacturer.

3. End-user applications will emerge as a key driver for uCPE

COTS servers are great as uCPE platforms for providing communications services. But the availability of an open compute platform within enterprises is triggering another interesting application: end-user applications. The service provider can deliver not only managed services, but also virtual machines to host end-user applications. This model amounts to a micro-cloud, and it can enable enterprises to eliminate their miscellaneous servers in small offices and move the applications to be hosted on the same server that delivers their communications services. This is a win for everyone.

4. Political turmoil will continue – and will drive NFV

Trade wars and Brexit will continue to give the global markets heartburn. They will also underscore the importance of a resilient supply chain, and the value of being able to change server suppliers when geopolitics complicates deliveries.

5. ADVA will rack up more NFV wins

We have been fortunate to be delivering NFV solutions to leading service providers, enterprises and partners around the world. We have announced some like Verizon, Colt, TPx, Singtel, Dell and IBM, but many others are not yet public. But when you chart out the wins over time, it’s impressive – as shown below.

Edge cloud graph

This trend will continue in 2020, with more wins and more announcements.