Six vendors have banded together to create prototypes of network functions virtualization (NFV), not only to nudge the concept toward reality but also to establish that NFV and the cloud will be inherently intertwined.
Calling themselves CloudNFV, the group has set up a glossy web site that proudly proclaims they’re in stealth mode. A demo might be revealed sometime around Labor Day, says analyst Tom Nolle of CIMI Corp., who is organizing the group.
One thing Nolle did say is that CloudNFV’s first project will be a cloud-based implementation of the IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) infrastructure, the signaling and messaging framework that sits behind converged, IP-based wired and wireless communications.
The six vendors’ identities are under wraps for now. We do know that Metaswitch Networks isn’t one of them (more on that later). And while two are “highly recognizable names in the IT world,” none are big telecom equipment vendors, Nolle says — because big vendors “would probably try to take control of the thing.”
CloudNFV isn’t sanctioned by ETSI nor by the NFV working group within that standards body. But it did get its start during the first NFV meeting, held in April at Huawei’s Santa Clara, Calif., campus.
NFV isn’t about creating standards. The working group’s goal is to put networking functions onto general-purpose hardware, using existing standards. Nolle says that ever since telecom operators presented the idea in October, he’s contended that the effort won’t go anywhere without prototypes being made available to the community — and the standards bodies NFV is looking toward are hardware-focused. They don’t produce software prototypes.
That’s one of the points he hammered on at the first NFV meeting.
“I got up probably 20 times to make comments about potential implementation issues. I guess it was lunchtime on the first day, standing in the Huawei parking lot talking to this software CEO about implementation issues, and we started to draw a crowd,” Nolle says.
Well, a crowd of six, but when Nolle eventually asked who would be prepared to commit resources to building an NFV prototype, all six said yes, and CloudNFV got started.
As for how IMS got chosen as the first project — CloudNFV was going to need some function that could be virtualized (harder work than it sounds), and Nolle wanted it to be ready for the cloud (which can’t be said of many Linux-based firewalls and load balancers). Metaswitch had already gone down that path. Earlier this year, the company started Project Clearwater, which aims to create an open-source, cloud-based implementation of IMS.
Metaswitch wasn’t in the original gang-of-six that started CloudNFV, Nolle says, but it’s now part of the project, helping to redefine its software on NFV terms.
The “cloud” part of CloudNFV comes partly from Nolle’s contention that NFV and software-as-a-service are linked.
“Whether everybody sees it this way or not, what NFV is building is going to be the platform for SaaS, however it’s deployed, and also for network virtualization. My contention is that all of this stuff is going to converge into a common framework,” he says. As one example, he points to SaaS-based unified communications — if you think about it, it’s pretty much an example of NFV, he says.
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