Saar Gillai, senior vice president and chief operating officer of HP Cloud and General Manager of NFV, has spent his time at HP spearheading the company’s portfolio and products, which offer enterprises the ability to build, operate, and deploy cloud services across multiple delivery models. Over the last few years, Gillai has played a pivotal role in building out HP’s investment in cloud and OpenStack. Prior to his current role, Gillai was still in the HP family as vice president and general manager of Cloud Networking, where he oversaw development, marketing, and sales. Not one to have just a single title or duty, Gillai also served as chief technology officer for HP Networking.
His time at HP has seen him launch the implementation for software-defined networking (SDN) products like HP Virtual Application Networks, as well as the Advanced Technology Group, which has been the starting point for several networking products. Before joining HP, Gillai held various senior leadership positions at 3Com and Cisco, as well as a few startups. Today, Gillai takes time to answer a few of SDNCentral’s questions regarding HP’s network functions virtualization (NFV) strategy and Tuesday’s announcement regarding its focus on carrier grade solutions.
SDNCentral: Can you describe HP’s overall strategy in a nutshell?
Gillai: NFV is about CSPs creating agility while reducing opex and capex by moving networking functions from traditional and propriety monolithic hardware-centric architectures to open and agile architectures based on cloud technologies. With OpenNFV, our strategy is to provide CSPs with a reference architecture, NFV platform, and rich partner ecosystem to enable this transition. In addition, one of the key tenets of the OpenNFV architecture is that it’s based on open standards and leverages open source technology projects (such as OpenStack). When you combine this with our OSS and service orchestration capabilities and broad hardware portfolio, you get a very compelling solution for CSPs looking to get going on NFV.
One of the benefits of this approach is the ability to enable other players to bring in new innovations. The HP OpenNFV partner program allows carriers to choose the HP and partner technologies they need for an end-to-end NFV solution. And with our HP OpenNFV Labs, we work with our partners to make sure that all the pieces work together, so the carriers don’t have to.
It’s clear with recent moves that you are leveraging your assets across cloud, OpenStack, and networking to bring NFV solutions together for carriers. How would you describe the core pillars that you are leveraging within HP to bring an NFV solution to the market?
HP has all the key ingredients for carriers to start their NFV transition journey — standard high-volume Ethernet switches, standard high-volume storage, industry-standard servers, as well as software.
Before we get into those specifics, perhaps one of the most critical things to understand now is the fact that CSPs are looking for OpenStack to play a role in the NFV platform. They want the same advantages the enterprise has experienced with open source. HP is well positioned to support this. As a leader in OpenStack and Cloud Foundry foundations and communities, HP has been a consistent leader in defining the next-generation computing platforms, and we are doing this again with HP Helion and the next-generation open source computing platform.
From an HP Networking viewpoint, we have standard high-volume Ethernet switches compliant to OpenFlow 1.3 that can come controlled by our HP standard SDN controller. We have our standard high-volume storage — 3PAR is well positioned in this space. HP also has industry standard servers featuring extended life cycle; NEBS Level-3 and ETSI certifications; and carrier-grade Linux OS support. All of these components provide the scalability and performance required in a CSP environment.
We also support some of the applications (ourselves or via partners), which were traditionally in telecom appliances that can be now implemented in virtual machines on top of the industry standard servers. This gives us the capability to cover the entire spectrum from the network hardware to the software applications to enable CSP deploying NFV.
And as orchestration is critical, the HP NFV director brings together HP capabilities in OSS and IT management to provide a comprehensive, multivendor NFV orchestration solution.
With today’s announcement of your partnership with Wind River, it appears that your HP Helion OpenStack solution is now going carrier grade to help accelerate NFV deployments. Can you share a few thoughts around this?
To realize the full value of NFV, our customers want the benefits of cloud computing, while meeting rigorous reliability, performance and management requirements. And the HP Helion platform coupled with Wind River’s carrier grade Linux and KVM [kernel-based virtual machine], will provide a fully integrated and supported cloud solution that brings a carrier grade platform that CSPs can put their trust in and build upon.
Along with Wind River, what other partnerships do you view as critical?
Our customers also want us to ensure that end-to-end, we can provide highly integrated hardware, Linux, virtualization software and the cloud technologies (OpenStack). At the hardware level, to meet customer needs, we aim to provide the highest performance with best software capabilities to leverage those hardware features. Partners like Intel, Brocade, and Mellanox provide great capabilities that have to be exposed using software layers to allow those features to be used by the VNFs.
NFV, for many, is still amorphous, and early service provider POCs looked a lot like they were just running applications in VMs and not much else. With ETSI now pushing hard on standard and reference architectures, what’s your view on where the industry is? How baked is the NFV architecture?
The industry is at a point where the early skepticism and “prove it to me” attitude have largely subsided. This initial phase was necessary for the industry to develop a common language, and for the players to shake out the actual requirements necessary for support. The more recent ETSI PoCs (we are involved in six of the ETSI-accepted PoCs, working with SKT, Telenor and NTT), and many of the over 20 PoCs we are involved in around the world, are starting to address interoperability. Customers are evaluating a wide range of other applications, including security, customer CPE, content delivery network, deep packet inspection, routing, home subscriber server, among others. Many of the fundamental aspects of the architecture have been settled, but the details and specifics are still being worked out. The good thing is that unprecedented industry efforts are underway to resolve the outstanding issues in a “standard’’ way, involving cooperation among users and suppliers in both the standards and the open source arena.
What are the other hard problems in the NFV rollout? And what is HP doing to help address those?
There are two parts to this – people/culture and technology.
While technology is the area people tend to focus on first, successful culture and process evolution is actually the most important factor to achieving success in NFV. Over the last 20+ years, CSPs have built very rigorous structures and processes in order to meet their business needs and SLAs within the limitations of the technology available. To gain the full benefits of NFV and stay competitive, much of this will need to evolve.
In IT, instead of having distinct groups managing storage, servers, and switches, carriers should look to remove hard delineations and create a more shared infrastructure team. On the network side, rather than having people solely dedicated to specific network functions, carriers should look to organize people into a network applications or service specialist team. In addition, a new set of skills will need to emerge in resource management and orchestration. As the service delivery model becomes more “cloudy,” the necessary skills will need to become “cloudy” as well. From waterfall to continuous integration, from silos to cross functional teams, and services insertion from month to minutes. But none of this is easy, and it will take time. One of the ways we are helping CSPs with this challenge, is by leveraging our broad experience in working with companies on similar transitions to provide various workshops and services to support this.
On the technology part, beyond our carrier grade effort announced today, HP is also working diligently to bring together a well-integrated, highly-performing, and open standards based environment which will allow carriers to have the confidence of deploying and managing the VNFs in the newly deployed environment. We are also working very hard with our partners to ensure we have an open collaborative environment where we have the capability to allow our partners to integrate their offerings, and test out operational/manageability aspects of the VNFs. HP is also providing a one-stop shop to bring an integrated offering that the carriers can rely on to build next generation networks.
What’s your services strategy? Do you see NFV rollouts being a large services play that integrates a combination of certified open-source components and carrier-proprietary elements? Will we ever get to a cookie-cutter rollout with minimal services and integration requirements?
There is a broad spectrum of NFV deployments, from simple virtualized single applications to complete geographically distributed data centers. Some will be simple with limited additional services and some will contain integration and deployment services. We also offer consulting and managed services for NFV.
We are actively building these solutions and the services skills and offers to go with them. One example is our “Data Center Care” offer, already available for enterprise cloud. This is well adapted to NFV support needs and we’ll sell this service offer with HP OpenNFV directly and via partners. Another example is the HP NFV Transformation Experience Workshop. This is a predefined NFV consulting offer that we have already delivered to customers around the world to help them plan their NFV journey. A third example is our investment in OpenStack. On top of our investment in Helion OpenStack and complementary software, we are now actively building up our OpenStack professional services team.
So cookie-cutter will not very often be the case, but we intend to simplify NFV rollout for our customers with pre-integrated solutions and pre-packaged, well-defined services.
As we wrap up, can you recap for us what has you so excited about NFV and what exciting things you see for HP over the next 12 to 18 months?
This is a historic point in time for the industry. As I lead this team, there is no other place I’d rather be. CSPs have a significant and critical opportunity right now, and HP — with its technology, IT and networking expertise, partners, services, labs, and commitment to standards — is in a unique position to help them be successful.
We’re experiencing considerable momentum in NFV with new partnerships such as the one we announced today with Wind River, over 20 proof of concept projects around the world, and HP OpenNFV Labs open and operational in every major region. We’re very excited about our roadmap moving forward. Stay tuned… we have a lot more you’ll be seeing soon.
Our interest is to make this journey to the cloud with NFV as efficient as possible for our customers — I won’t say “easy,” as there is work to do. But our job as partner to the CSP is to be flexible and remove the barriers on this NFV journey.