The overall goal, as announced earlier, is to develop prototypes to show NFV can work in a real network. Along the way, CloudNFV plans to tackle implementation factors that tend to get overlooked — management, in particular, says Tom Nolle, principal analyst with CIMI Corp. and the instigator of CloudNFV.
“I’m of the view, as a software guy, that there are a lot of things that communications standards don’t define,” Nolle says. “There are a lot of implementation details that we’re going to have to learn through experimentation — and we [CloudNFV] are an experiment.”
The virtualization of functions means management information will be sitting in a common pool rather than in a specific database. It won’t necessarily be obvious what the semantics of that management information would be, as it could come from any of multiple sources.
So, CloudNFV aims to decouple the creation of management information from the way it’s presented. For example, the architecture can present information in SNMP form, regardless of whether it originated in SNMP form.
Nolle says this is also a way of making sure NFV stays open — really open. His concern is that a vendor-specific or even protocol-specific architecture would “undermine the choice of abstraction and the way abstraction is mapped.”
More generally, the CloudNFV model creates services by using pre-prepared templates that get slightly customized for particular circumstances; the CloudNFV white paper likens it to buying a bicycle, where the bike itself is standard but you get to choose the color. Using that information, orchestration software tells OpenStack how to create the necessary functions in the cloud and how to network them.
Gang of Six
Wednesday’s announcement includes the names of most of the companies that founded CloudNFV: 6WIND, EnterpriseWeb, Overture Networks, Qosmos, and one more that’s chosen not to be revealed yet. Metaswitch, whose Project Clearwater is the basis for the first IMS prototype, is also involved but joined after CloudNFV formed.
Obviously, the group spans quite a technological range. Dell is providing hardware, and Overture is contributing orchestration software. 6WIND offers data-plane software, and Qosmos is contributing traffic probes and a “DPI-as-a-service” capability for prototyping.
EnterpriseWeb’s contribution is the data model called Active Virtualization, which includes representations of the available network resources and of services and network functions.
Other NFV Work
The NFV industry specification group (ISG) hasn’t set its rules for things such as conformance with ETSI’s intellectual property requirements, so CloudNFV won’t formally present to the group yet. We’ll have to wait to see what the formal reception is.
In the meantime, similar efforts are progressing. Nolle cites Amartus’ software-defined service orchestration (SDS) as one example, although it focuses on provisioning and orchestration and doesn’t deal with actually hosting any functions.
A closer counterpart might be Alcatel-Lucent‘s CloudBand, which is a full carrier cloud architecture — and a product, as opposed to CloudNFV, an experiment, meaning CloudBand is further along in its development. But CloudNFV covers some ground that CloudBand doesn’t, specifically that management virtualization area, Nolle says.
The NFV itself is launching proof-of-concept projects too, Nolle says.
“I’m not saying we’re going to be the only prototype of NFV. I’m saying we’re a complete prototype of NFV,” he says.