The European Telecommunication Standards Institute (ETSI) is currently putting on a Plugtest event in Madrid, Spain. The participants are testing 20 virtual network functions (VNFs), 10 management and orchestration systems, and 10 network functions virtualization (NFV) platforms.
Participants are testing how VNFs can be orchestrated on different platforms. “You can freely mix VNFs, orchestration, and platforms from different sources,” says Telefonica’s Diego Lopez, the head of the ETSI Industry Specification Group for NFV (ETSI ISG NFV).
Whereas in the past, specifications would have to be complete before conducting such tests, “this is not what we’re doing,” says Lopez. “We’re starting with ‘mature enough’ testing to show that the approach is feasible. It’s an interactive process.”
Lost in the Crowd?
ETSI can be credited with kicking off NFV management and network orchestration (MANO) work with its framework issued in 2014. But since then, so many NFV open source and standards groups have sprung up that sometimes ETSI’s continued work kind of gets lost in the shuffle.
Lopez says, “Standards activity and open source can go in parallel. We’re collaborating very closely with these open source initiatives, not playing any kind of competition.”
But what about the fact that ETSI hosts the open source OSM group that’s working on MANO, seemingly in competition with the Open-O project hosted by the Linux Foundation?
“Let me insist on this: OSM and Open-O are not competing,” says Lopez. “The natural way of doing open source is to collaborate even when you occupy similar spaces. When you’re open, you’re open. I have been participating in Open-O gatherings.”
He says that Open-O is committed to a much wider space, implementing the whole Lifecycle Service Orchestration (LSO), and connecting down to the infrastructure layer, and working with software-defined networking (SDN). OSM is more focused on NFV aspects.
Lopez thinks the different MANO groups are a good thing because they focus on different use cases based on the needs and interests of their main service provider members. These diverse use cases ultimately make the whole open source MANO ecosystem more rich.
Standards vs. Open Source
Although ETSI is hosting the OSM project, ETSI itself is a standards body. The ETSI ISG NFV group does standards work, not implementations. It builds recommendations in terms of how problems should be addressed.
But Lopez says the group is more modern than traditional standards groups that require fees to join and that keep their work secret. “We are trying to make standards in a new, agile way,” he says. “We have been trying to be very practical with our PoCs. People are encouraged to come and discuss lessons learned.”
The only restrictions on participants in the ISG NFV group is that they must commit that any contributions they make will become part of the group’s work, and the code will be under an open license. All of the group’s specifications, even in draft stage, are made public on the ETSI portal.
The Future for ETSI ISG NFV
In addition to working on standards for NFV within its framework, the ETSI ISG NFV group is exploring expanded areas. “One of the most important is how we can support all the 5G requirements and act as a focal point in harmonizing the information models,” says Lopez.
He says NFV has grown much faster than he expected. People are starting to drop the terms NFV and SDN and just refer to software networks.
“In the normal operations of networks, the option of finding how to address the NFV requirements is becoming a normal option,” he says.