Sandra Rivera, Vice President and General Manager, Network Platforms Group at Intel Corporation, discusses NFV, use cases & attaining the ideal network.
What is your long-term vision for NFV?
There is no question in my mind that NFV and SDN will form the foundation for tomorrow’s networks. It will serve as the infrastructure for the 50 billion connected devices and 2 zettabytes of annual traffic that analysts predict by the year 2020. More importantly, it will serve as the connectivity fabric of our society, enabling exciting new use cases, connecting the unconnected, and fostering technological innovation that will continuously improve the way we live.
In the three short years since its inception, NFV has moved from a question of “if” or “why” to one of “where, when, and how much.” I am excited about the collaboration I see across the industry among operators, TEMs and OEMs, ISVs, industry standards bodies, and open source communities. All are working in concert to deliver NFV and SDN solutions based on server, virtualization, and cloud technologies and business models.
What are your key target use cases/POCs and what is the industry doing to deliver these?
Communications service providers are evaluating, conducting trials, and deploying a wide range of NFV and SDN solutions. The virtual network functions (VNFs) we’ve seen deploying first are vCPE in both residential and enterprise, vEPC, and vIMS particularly for VoLTE usage models.
One way the industry is advancing the adoption of NFV is by developing reference architectures and platforms based on open source software atop standards-based hardware. We see examples from the service providers themselves, such as Verizon’s SDN network evolution initiative announced earlier this year; from NFV solution providers, like HP OpenNFV and Alcatel-Lucent CloudBand; and from ingredient providers, like the Open Network Platform (ONP) from Intel.
The Open Platform for NFV (OPNFV) was formed to deliver a commercial-grade open source platform to accelerate the deployment of NFV. One goal is to make it easier for reference architectures and platforms, such as the ones I referenced above, to integrate necessary open source components while at the same time driving increased performance, power efficiency, reliability, availability, and serviceability. Intel has chosen to make the move to use OPNFV as the basis for ONP starting in early 2016.
These reference architectures and platforms form the basis for the key use cases I mentioned earlier. Solution vendors, as well as the service providers themselves, are hard at work onboarding dozens of new VNFs in their labs for future deployment.
What hurdles remain for vendors in order to attain the ideal network?
Our conversations with service providers have reaffirmed three key areas of focus required to drive NFV deployment at broad scale: optimization, integration, and interoperability.
Solution stack optimization is critical to achieve necessary network platform performance. Ongoing tuning of open source and commercial ingredients must continue. The reference architectures we discussed above are bootstrapping and accelerating solution development. In addition, the community must expose shared learnings through continued education and ecosystem collaboration.
With many different vendors providing ingredients for NFV infrastructure, assembling a known good solution stack is very complex. We must drive integration for key NFV use cases, creating solutions blueprints to quicken the pace of future development.
As we move toward the NFV ideal of an ecosystem of truly open, standards-based solutions, we need to ensure interoperability across not only new solutions being developed but also between new and existing network infrastructure. Community labs, such as the OPNFV labs, are critical venues for technical collaboration. Customer technology workshops, hackathons, and plugfests have fostered development and innovation in server and cloud technology for many years, and now this same approach will help ensure interoperable solutions for network infrastructure too.
Also in the area of interoperability, carrier-grade management and orchestration (MANO) is of utmost concern. We believe it is critical to overcome fragmentation and define consistent information models and interfaces among and to the VIM, VNF manager, and NFVO blocks to drive robust MANO solutions that will ensure the industry can deploy NFV at scale.
Robust ecosystems are critical to solving all of these challenges, and like reference architectures, these communities are originated by service providers, solution providers, and ingredient providers alike. AT&T’s Domain 2.0 serves as not only an ecosystem, but as a means of supply chain transformation. CloudNFV was founded by Dell, CIMI Corporation, 6WIND, and others to accelerate integration of solutions in a multi-vendor environment. And HP OpenNFV, Alcatel-Lucent CloudBand, and Intel Network Builders represent additional examples of ecosystem programs.
What is your perspective on the evolving relationships among standards, open-source, and vendors?
Open source and open standards are the engines driving the transformation of networks to NFV and SDN. Communities of contributors throughout the value chain are collaborating to create novel approaches to rapidly realize the promise of network transformation. While open source development fuels an undeniably high pace of innovation, it is the hardened, commercial offerings from ISVs and solution providers that are often preferred in many enterprise or carrier-grade communications environments. This symbiotic relationship is essential to our success.
Coming out of the first OPNFV Summit last month, I’m encouraged by the progress this community has made in such a short time. The energy level was high and very positive, because the industry wants OPNFV to succeed. But there is an urgency to go faster, and this is where OPNFV will focus in its second year. OPNFV also has a big responsibility to contribute high availability, high reliability, low latency, security , and diagnostic innovations into the upstream NFV open source projects.
What new technology or trend in the networking space are you most curious about and why?
One of the key areas for 2016 that I am looking at is the impact of the Internet of Things (IoT) on the scalability, flexibility, and security of networks, and how NFV and SDN can deliver on those requirements. The advent of 5G will further push the envelope of what is possible with IoT. The IoT domains where I see the most market opportunity include automotive, industrial, retail, healthcare, and other industries, and 5G will enable even more disruptive and immersive IoT experiences. Coupled with intelligent, high-performance networks and big data analytics, there’s no doubt that IoT will drive tremendous positive change in our world – and I’m excited to be a part of it.