Oracle has updated its network functions virtualization (NFV) Oracle Communication Application Orchestrator, giving it the ability to manage physical appliances in addition to virtual network functions (VNFs).
The challenge comes in with the physical functions, according to Chris King, senior director, product marketing for Oracle Communications.
“When building out a hybrid VNF, and you’ve got a purpose-built physical function, there are constraints around what you can and can’t do,” King says. “You can’t move the physical elements.”
To deal with the combination of physical and virtual functions, the updated application orchestrator now includes a development kit for writing plug-ins for specific vendors’ products.
“You do have to have an adaptation layer,” says King. “That’s what the plug-in manager and kit is all about. If you look at the old client-server architecture, if you had a server from Sun and one from HP, and were using OpenView to manage, you had a plug-in for HP and a plug-in for Sun.”
It’s going to become more common for an orchestrator to control both virtual and physical functions, says Dana Cooperson, research director at Analysys Mason.
“There are two basic approaches,” she says, and “ultimately, you have to be able to do both. You can take the network management system that’s been in place and extend it to manage the virtual. Or you can do the virtual and extend it to handle the physical.”
As for who is writing the plug-ins, King says some are being written by Oracle, and some are being written by vendors. But Cooperson says Oracle is mainly orchestrating its own products and services at this point, including physical load balancers and session border controllers, which it inherited through the acquisitions of Acme Packet and Tekelec.
ETSI NFV MANO Framework
Not only can the application orchestrator manage the functions of this legacy equipment, but it can also string the functions together to perform more functions. This is normally called a service chain or a forwarding graph, but Oracle refers to these groups as composite network functions (CNFs).
Oracle is doing this by providing a layer of management and integration between the network orchestrator and the actual functions themselves.
“It is in the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) MANO framework as a separate entity: the VNF Manager,” Cooperson says. “They took advantage of a layer that was identified by ETSI.”