The State of HW2SW Transformation

The power of workload-optimized data center infrastructure in fulfilling hardware-to-software transformational demands.

Futurum is an independent research, analysis, and advisory firm, focused on digital innovation and market-disrupting technologies and trends.

Migrating from a hardware to a software-centric infrastructure and services model: Insight into the drivers, challenges and opportunities for Communications Service Providers.

The communications industry is in flux. Evolving technologies such as 5G, the Internet of Things (IoT), and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are driving waves of new services and use cases. To capitalize on these emerging opportunities, Communications Service Providers (CoSPs) have transformed – or are rapidly transforming – their networks to become more agile, drive quicker innovation, and maximize revenue potential.

For many, this transformation involves a shift, or migration, from a hardware-centric to a software-centric infrastructure and services model, employing intelligent edge, Network Functions Virtualization (NFV)/ Software-Defined Networking (SDN), and hybrid cloud adoption strategies.

To better understand this changing landscape, Intel and Futurum recently carried out a global study: The State of Hardware to Software (HW2SW) Transformation.1 The research focused on the key drivers, challenges and opportunities for CoSPs as they migrate from HW2SW. Among the main findings were:

  • The three-way convergence of hardware, applications and data convergence are the top strategic drivers of HW2SW migration
    The acceleration in this three-way convergence encompasses major standalone trends like software migration, virtualization, and analytics assimilation, and validates that network architects stay on top of convergence demands to guide and meet their organization’s strategic technology and business demands.

  • The top use case for HW2SW migration is industrial IoT
    CoSPs view industrial IoT as the leading vertical use case today, as well as up to two years from now. However, other top-tier use cases, such as Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR), banking and finance, energy, utilities, and autonomous driving trail only by single-digit percentages.

  • Security and faster access to data rank as the top overall selection criteria for HW2SW vendor and solution evaluation
    As CoSPs hasten their HW2SW plans and move away from their early deployments to regularized digital operations, security takes on an increasingly paramount role. The high priority CoSPs attach to faster access to data illustrates that the “need for speed” is consistently a deal breaker when it comes to selecting NFV solutions.

  • NFV Management and Orchestration (MANO) is the leading driver of technology investments supporting HW2SW migration
    CoSPs see the implementation of NFV MANO as their top investment driver, indicating that they have graduated from testing and adopting fundamental NFV capabilities, such as Virtual Network Functions (VNF) management and VNF license management, and focus more on orchestrating their VNF assets.

  • IT units drive the majority of procurement investment
    CoSPs identify their IT units as the leading bloc for ongoing HW2SW procurement investments, indicating the IT side of the house is driving HW2SW migration and digital transformation. With CoSPs accelerating their NFV/SDN and hybrid service/resource management investments, IT is taking on increased organization-wide decision-making responsibilities.

  • Support for analytics is the top need addressed by NFV and software acceleration
    Analytics support is the top driver accelerating NFV and software architecture implementations over the next two years, demonstrating a shift in gears from deploying NFV/SDN to institutionalizing it. CoSPs are progressing from making SDN/NFV work on a limited basis to executing enterprise-wide implementations manageable from a Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) and service-level perspective.

  • High-Performance Computing (HPC) is an adjacent, related challenge
    The advent and quickening adoption of 5G-IoT is obliging CoSPs to meet emerging HPC requirements. In the Asia-Pacific region, in particular, where 5G deployments are the furthest along, CoSPs are encountering HPC-based challenges due to factors such as expansion of interworking with enterprise HPC platforms and exploring how they can optimize their own HPC investments and builds.

To read the research findings in full, read the paper: The State of HW2SW Transformation.

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1Futurum Research surveyed 465 business executives and technology professionals, with broad geographic distribution primarily across North America, Europe Middle East Africa (EMEA), and Asia-Pacific (APAC) within the Communications Service Provider (CoSP) community, including both employees and individuals (such as contractors and advisors) directly supporting CoSP organizations. The industry verticals targeted by the survey included AR/VR, Autonomous Driving, Banking/Finance, Energy/Utilities, Gaming, Healthcare, Industrial IoT, Public Safety, Retail, Smart Cities, and Transportation.