Will End-to-End Service Management Standards and Tools Always Trail New SDN Technologies?

There’s an interesting Light Reading article by Carol Wilson talking about Ari Banerjee’s research into end-to-end service management for SDN & NFV, and how Banerjee has shown that the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) has failed to take into account hybrid virtualized and non-virtualized environments when drawing up their standards on virtualized service and network functions.

In other words, the standards work in theory, but in practice, they’re just too simple for real-world environments. Will end-to-end service management standards and tools always trail new SDN technologies?

Here’s an odd thing about technology development: it tends to come in five distinct stages.

Stage 1: Can we do this thing?
Stage 2: How can we do this thing?
Stage 3: What’s the best way to do this thing?
Stage 4: How do we make doing this thing easier?
Stage 5: How can we manage this thing?

And of course, sometimes answering, “How do we make doing this thing easier?” and “How can we manage this thing?” starts with asking the question “Can we do this new thing?”

What’s problematic is that when there are business goals to be achieved by doing the thing, there is pressure to implement solutions before they’re easy to implement, essentially “doing this thing” as soon as developers have answered Stage 3, or, (heaven help your IT staff), after Stage 2.

But this is always the way. End-to-end service management standards and tools trail the availability of new technology – simply because the need for standards isn’t always obvious until a technology has matured to the point where it needs standardization, and tools are almost always developed in response to solving a problem.

It may seem like I’m restating the obvious to say that, but it’s not always obvious all the time to everyone. In short, the simple standards that ETSI propose don’t address every environment. Since that’s the case, the standards will eventually need to be amended, but that won’t be in time for the enterprises using SDN and NFV to better meet their business goals of today.

Yes, as Wilson points out, this will result in another silo of service management to manage the complex interconnections between hardware networks and the constantly shifting virtualized networking environments. And nobody likes more silos. But it’s just a reality that for some time, networks will be hybrid environments – perhaps even forever.

But that does not mean the silo will be there forever. See, the thing about technology standards is that they may lag behind the immediate needs of business, but they do a pretty good job of catching up over the long run.