The Tail-f business inside Cisco has helped SoftBank develop a self-service portal for attaching services onto VPNs, a project that suggests Tail-f has kept its multivendor flavor after being acquired.
Specifically, the White Cloud SmartVPN portal project, due to be launched in February, will use Tail-f for service chaining, building applications out of multiple vendors’ virtual network functions (VNFs) and physical equipment.
Multivendor support was a hallmark of Tail-f’s, and carriers were concerned the company might lose that independence after Cisco acquired it last year for $175 million.
The portal relies heavily on YANG models, providing fodder for the YANG revolution that the Tail-f team (Cisco is preserving the brand name) is trying to incite among service providers.
The SoftBank deal was announced this morning at the SDN & OpenFlow World Congress. In an afternoon talk yesterday, SoftBank’s Hironori Nakano, head of service planning, introduced the new portal for SmartVPN, while Cisco Principal Engineer Stefan Vallin explained the details.
SmartVPN is a managed service that SoftBank introduced in 2012. Since then, the service provider has been running into problems with long delivery times for services (about a month, plus a few days for each configuration change, Nakano said) and stubbornly rising costs.
The self-service portal is meant to fix those problems, particularly the delivery time. SoftBank is using Cisco’s Network Services Orchestrator (the current name for Tail-f’s Network Control System), which uses YANG models to provision services on a variety of network equipment.
Specifically, the portal needs to only understand the YANG model representing a particular service. The details of provisioning the service to the virtual and physical infrastructure are handled by NSO. Cisco’s Virtual Topology System (VTS), a product introduced last year, uses overlay networks to stitch those pieces into a service chain.
The setup is being run on servers in a VMware environment; SoftBank’s portal doesn’t require any Cisco hardware.
Based on Vallin’s talk, getting the service definitions into the portal is more than half the battle.
“Things are surprisingly informal and manual today,” he said. “If I visit a service provider and ask, ‘How do you specify a product or service?’ they say, ‘Well, I have 120 pages of work …'”
Once the service is running, Cisco’s software also informs the assurance systems in the OSS — the systems that keep watch over the service and make sure it continues running smoothly.
That last step is important, because in creating these services, the SmartVPN portal doesn’t use any OSS at all, Vallin said.
The YANG Revolution
Getting back to the idea of YANG models — it’s something that many in the industry, including David Ward, a Cisco CTO, have been advocating for some time. YANG is a language that can be used to describe services in terms that can be common throughout the industry. AT&T, with its Domain 2.0 supplier program, and Deutsche Telekom, with its Terastream next-generation architecture, are both demanding that vendors support YANG models.
Still, YANG is far from universal among service providers. So, Tail-f has launched a marketing campaign, using the American Revolution as its metaphor. Accompanying T-shirts got snapped up quickly at the SDN & OpenFlow World Congress, as tends to happen to free T-shirts.
The idea is to promote YANG as the way to avoid the “tax” of using an adapter to translate service requirements. Tail-f has written a template of an RFP that demands YANG modeling; service providers can download the RFP after signing the “declaration” of independence from adapters.
Cisco is doing its part by rolling out Netconf and YANG to all its operating systems, Tail-f officials said at the conference.