We’ve heard a lot about network functions virtualization (NFV) moving functions onto servers, but there hasn’t been any NFV work done on the servers themselves. NTT, Alcatel-Lucent Japan, and Fujitsu have taken it up on themselves to change this.
The concern is that servers won’t keep up as more appliances turn into virtualized network functions (VNFs). As more VNFs amass in the network, the scale and complexity just might call for a new server platform, so the theory goes.
Hence, the three companies mentioned above are proposing the virtual network platform as a service (VNPaaS), and they announced yesterday that it’s been approved as a proof-of-concept (PoC) by the ETSI NFV Industry Specifications Group (ISG).
That means the VNPaaS is more than a shot in the dark; it’s an “official” use case that ETSI will encourage vendors to pursue. Judging from the PoC information on the ISG’s web site, VNPaaS is the 13th PoC approved.
Scalability and Reliability
Details about VNPaaS are a bit vague, but the idea is to provide a platform that takes care of scalability and reliability for applications. Today, every application has to take its own responsibility for those two factors. Assuming NFV takes off, and hundreds of VNFs start running routinely, it’s easy to see how carriers might feel uneasy about leaving the scalability and reliability burden to so many independent sets of hands.
The key to VNPaaS seems to be the use of distributed hardware resources that are logically bound together. (“Distributed” means the VNPaaS is relatively disaster-proof — an important factor to NTT due to the Fukushima disaster and the all-too-real possibilities of earthquakes and tsumanis.)
NTT is acting as the PoC sponsor. Every PoC needs one, a carrier that defines the requirements and submits the proposal to the ETSI NFV ISG. Alcatel-Lucent is supplying CloudBand, its server virtualization and orchestration platform. And Fujitsu brings middleware, developed with NTT, for running stateful VNFs.
The PoC itself will be run on May 14 in Okinawa, Japan, at the Bankoku Shinryokan Resort MICE Facility. Judging by the photos on that site, this could be an extremely popular PoC.
Below are the two diagrams NTT provided as explanation of VNPaaS. Click each picture for the originals.