Networks functions virtualization (NFV) is just a baby in terms of networking. It’s only been around for about five years since the ETSI NFV ISG published its initial white paper. But it’s starting to creep into networks, perhaps not in the way it was originally conceived. In 2017 we began to see some creative ways NFV is being deployed in real production networks.
It turns out that software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN) is one way that NFV is charming its way into networks. SD-WAN has been a hot technology in 2017. And many service providers announced that they would be providing the technology to their enterprise customers.
One example is the Australian service provider Telstra. It’s offering SD-WAN as the low-hanging fruit to get enterprises to start using virtual functions. Telstra decided to use VeloCloud’s SD-WAN software as a virtual network function (VNF) on Juniper Networks’ universal CPE (uCPE) devices.
Over time, once enterprises get used to SD-WAN, the uCPE can run other VNFs, and the enterprise won’t have to deploy multiple dedicated appliances for each application or service. Telstra has created a marketplace of VNFs. And Juniper’s uCPE provides a programmable interface with open API’s so other third-party VNFs can run on the device.
Turnkey Cloud with VNFs
Vendors are creating pre-packaged VNF stacks to make it easier for service providers to embrace. Dell EMC offers a turnkey NFV system it calls NFV Ready Bundle for Red Hat, for example. And others, such as VMware, are offering telco cloud NFV stacks, although not all vendors are using the term “turnkey.”
In one example, Juniper Networks announced this year that it was offering a turnkey telco cloud service. It’s leveraging its experience working with Tier 1 service providers, including AT&T, which is using Juniper’s Contrail software-defined networking (SDN) in its telco cloud.
The turnkey offering uses Contrail Networking, Red Hat OpenStack, Red Hat Ceph Storage, monitoring from AppFormix, and pre-validated VNFs from Juniper as well as third parties. The pre-validated VNFs include its own vSRX virtual firewall and also Affirmed Networks’ virtual evolved packet core (vEPC). Juniper plans to add many more VNFs in the future.
Verizon’s NFV Pricing Scheme
Vendors aren’t the only ones coming up with creative ways to introduce virtual functions. Verizon Enterprise Solutions rolled out a pay-as-you-go pricing scheme for its Virtual Network Services (VNS) platform. It offers a single line-item pricing model.
The service relies on the carrier’s universal customer premises equipment (uCPE) as the basis for service delivery. Previously, enterprises would need to order and pay for their applications, management, and CPE separately. The new offer consolidates the procurement and billing aspects into “functions you are running.” SD-WAN and security were two early favorites of enterprise customers.
Incorporating VNFs with PNFs
France-based OneAccess Networks has been selling routers and other equipment to telcos, mostly in Europe, for about 17 years. But it’s scrambling to help its customers transition to virtualized networks.
It noted that its customers need a migration strategy from their legacy networks. So OneAccess updated its OneOS operating system to manage both physical and virtual services.
Service providers can use OneOS however they like: with traditional, physical customer premises equipment (CPE), with white box CPE, or as a VNF hosted in the telco cloud. In this way OneAccess is providing a platform that works in service provider networks today and allows them to gradually transition to virtualization.
London-based BT is accommodating its larger enterprise customers that want to continue using Cisco hardware and software, even as they evolve toward virtualization. BT will provide Cisco’s Enterprise Network Compute System (ENCS) hardware and Cisco Network Services Orchestrator (NSO) software for large enterprises — that want proprietary technology — to deploy VNFs such as routing, acceleration, and security across their global footprints.
The NFV platform gives customers the flexibility to deploy new functions, when desired, without having to deploy new devices. These functions will be deployed and managed remotely without the need for a truck roll. As a BT-managed service, it will also support VNFs from multiple vendors.