F5 Networks introduced a virtual network function (VNF) manager to automatically scale capacity for a couple of functions in service provider networks. Those functions are Gi LAN traffic management and Gi firewall.
F5 Networks is a security and network company that plays in the application delivery controller (ADC) space. The company’s products include load balancing, network optimization, network firewalls, and access controllers.
Its new VNF manager is specifically for service providers. Damir Vrankic, senior director of product management with F5 Networks, said that in the past, service providers would buy F5 software and hardware and configure network functions themselves. But the VNF manager allows them to build capacity in an automated way. “You can start adding service layers to extend your capacity as you need it,” Vrankic explained.
And the capacity is correlated with consumption-based pricing, which Vrankic said service providers have been wanting for a long time. Resources can be spun up, spun down, or automatically receive added capacity.
Vrankic said traditionally it’s been very difficult to estimate the amount of capacity a service provider might need for a network function such as a firewall. Each network environment is unique. “If you run a solution on very cheap VMs you are probably going to get less throughput,” he said. “That’s a big variable. Also, firewalls are not all the same. What you’re doing with your firewall is going to define how much capacity you get from it: if you’re running with three rules versus 10,000 rules.”
To account for all the variables, customers have been taking huge correction factors, over-sizing their solutions. F5’s VNF manager allows them to scale capacity and avoid over provisioning.
The ETSI NFV MANO Diagram
If you look at the original ETSI NFV MANO diagram, the VNF manager falls in the middle between the virtualized infrastructure manager (VIM), which is at the bottom, and the NFV orchestrator, which is at the top.
F5’s VNF manager is currently using OpenStack for the VIM layer, “but it could be a VMware solution in the future,” said Vrankic. F5’s VNF manager sends signals to OpenStack to do things such as provision additional machines, auto-scale, and auto-heal.
Vrankic said it is easy to draw a line between the VIM and the VNF manager. But it’s harder to draw a clear line between the VNF manager and the NFV orchestrator. The ETSI NFV diagram “was done in a tech vacuum about 10 years ago,” he said. “In the meantime, things are evolving and changing.”
Of VNF manager technology in general, Vrankic said, “This space is defined mostly by orchestrators that are offered as part of specific vendor solutions.” The big telecom vendors such as Nokia, Ericsson, and Huawei compete in this ecosystem.
F5 recently gave itself some additional NFV clout with the hiring of James Feger as vice president and general manager of F5’s service provider business. Feger previously led network virtualization development with CenturyLink.
For today’s news, Feger stated, “Service provider organizations have plenty of options when it comes to virtualizing elements of their network, but what they haven’t had previously is a package that delivers consumption-based pricing that can be tied directly to business outcomes.”