Now that ETSI has gotten network functions virtualization (NFV) ensconced into our brains, the people most closely involved with the movement have started looking at Phase 2.
Whatever form that takes, it’s going to focus more on deployment and implementation, as opposed to establishing the ideas behind NFV. It will be about real dirt-under-the-fingernails work.
One idea under consideration, then, is to bring the Linux Foundation into the loop as a repository for open-source NFV code. The ETSI effort is on the move as well. The Industry Specifications Group (ISG) that introduced NFV will end its charter in February, and discussions at its next meeting, late in July, will include election of new leadership and discussion of what the group should do post-February.
Meanwhile, real-world considerations such as management and orchestration are becoming stronger in the NFV discussion, as evidenced by discussions recently at Light Reading’s Big Telecom Event (BTE) in Chicago. And consultant Tom Nolle of CIMI Corp., who focused on the question of NFV management by founding the CloudNFV effort, is continuing to pursue open-source options for the topic, now through his newly created ExperiaSphere.
The ETSI ISG, consisting of carriers, had set off to establish the concept of NFV and spread it around the industry. That’s now done, and NFV has graduated into discussions about the practicalities of deployment. It’s time for code, in other words.
“If you think about it, there’s no coding going on by ETSI. There is at the vendor level, but there’s no community coding going on,” says Kelly Herrell, vice president of Brocade’s software business unit. It’s being spearheaded by people who are involved with the ETSI ISG but has no organizational ties to ETSI. Still, carriers are being asked to get involved and seem willing to fund the effort, as Light Reading reported last week.
That’s where the Linux Foundation would come in. Under a plan called the Open Platform for NFV (OPN), the Foundation would become a home for open-source code related to NFV — with an emphasis on “open source.”
“They definitely want more and more activity going on in the open-source areas, because that’s how they take control of the future,” “This whole effort by the service providers is to avoid lock-in and increase their options,” Herrell says.
That code could be a jumping-off point for developing NFV products, just as the OpenDaylight Project (also curated by the Linux Foundation) provides a freely available starting point for an SDN platform, especially the controller.
Dose of NFV Realism
Around the industry, NFV discussions are taking more of a real-world bent. A running theme for multiple speakers and panelists at BTE was that NFV has to be more than simplistic virtualization of functions. Boxes were going to shrink into software anyway. NFV’s deeper benefits lie in using this level of virtualization to make services more flexible and more distributed.
“If we cannot do NFV as a transformational trigger, then it’s not a big deal,” said Ibahim Gedeon, CTO of Telus and one of several BTE speakers focusing on NFV. Virtualizing any given box is easy; Telus’ concern is in transforming thousands of cellular-network sites in a way that improves Telus’ operations, he said.
“NFV must be applied to the data plane as well … and data-plane workloads are completely different from control-plane workloads,” Lopez said. “The performance requirements are completely different, and we found we have to apply techniques very similar to high-performance computing.
Merging NFV and Open-Source
The backdrop to all this is that NFV, if done correctly, is going to require a lot of attention at the management plane. That’s why, anecdotally, the management and orchestration (MANO) working group is one of the busiest segments of the ISG.
The CloudNFV effort, now spearheaded by Dell, emphasized management in setting up a model for cloud-based NFV deployment. And Tom Nolle, the CIMI Corp. consultant who started that effort, has embarked on something more obsessively management-minded: ExperiaSphere, a management and orchestration architecture. It comes from the same place as CloudNFV, namely, Nolle’s concern that the industry isn’t paying enough attention to the management side of SDN and NFV, at least not in purely open contexts.
ExperiaSphere’s model came together fairly quickly after Nolle left CloudNFV early this year. In part, that’s because Nolle found he could do 85 percent of the architecture using available open-source tools. He’s making the remaining bits available on an open-source basis.
“I really though this was going to be more of a specification, but it’s a cookbook. All the ingredients are there,” Nolle says. “The problem is that the people who have made progress in this space haven’t been very articulate.”
Those people include vendors that have taken advantage of open-source code. “What you’re going to find inside IBM’s service orchestration model is Tosca [Topology and Orchestration Specification for Cloud Applications],” he says, referring to an open-source package that he calls the “gold standard” for describing a cloud service.
Nolle has been building up ExperiaSphere through web-hosted tutorials that also serve as Q&A sessions. He’s putting the architecture in the public domain, the idea being that anybody should be able to pick it up and drive it to implementation, maybe by adding that last 15 percent themselves. His work can be tracked on the ExperiaSphere site and on a separate blog he’s been keeping since April.
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