Topology and Orchestration Specification for Cloud Applications (TOSCA) is a standard put together by industry group OASIS that can be used to enable the portability of cloud applications and related IT services for telecom operators. There are many telco cloud applications for TOSCA because of its utility in the configuration of network functions virtualization (NFV) equipment and applications.
TOSCA (which also happens to be the name of a famous opera by Giacomo Puccini) is a data model that can be used by telecom carriers for creating templates or data descriptions of applications and infrastructure for cloud services. It can also be used to define the relationships among these services, as well as their operational behavior. This can happen independently of the supplier creating the service or the technology infrastructure used to deliver it. In short, TOSCA abstracts configuration data away from specific hardware or services to make cloud services more interoperable and portable.
Building the TOSCA Cloud
Users of TOSCA believe it can enable high levels of service portability, making services portable to any cloud or application that is TOSCA compatible. The data model also enables easier migration of applications, bursting of service levels, and portability between multicloud or hybrid cloud platforms. The broad application of such standards can benefit consumers while enabling growth of the cloud market as a whole.
TOSCA is one of many important standards in the communications industry and will be pivotal in delivering cloud services. It is also being used in conjunction with other standards to deliver NFV: Notable among these is the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) management and orchestration (MANO) architecture.
A big advantage of TOSCA is that it is inherently infrastructure-agnostic, and thus is extensible to enable the automation of software-defined networks, in combination with NFV and clouds, to simplify end-to-end service orchestration for cloud and telco operators.
Recent TOSCA Cloud Implementations
Many service providers, network equipment vendors, and cloud software platforms are using TOSCA to build interoperable cloud applications and equipment.
For example, Cloudify is an open source TOSCA cloud orchestration platform designed to automate the process of installation, deployment, and management of cloud applications. Equipment and network software vendors such as Ciena, HPE, and IBM have embraced TOSCA in their approach to cloud. Enterprise software vendors including IBM, SAP, and SugarCRM have demonstrated the use of TOSCA for enterprise cloud interoperability. Other members of the OASIS TOSCA technical committee have included CA, Nokia (Alcatel-Lucent), Cisco Systems, Fujitsu, Google, Huawei, Intel, NEC/Netcracker, Red Hat, and VMware.
While Cloudify, IBM, and others are leveraging TOSCA to automate cloud and/or NFV applications, hardware vendors such as Ciena are using TOSCA to enable the automated deployment and lifecycle management of physical resources – and to interconnect them to orchestrate services from end-to-end. These resources encompass network layers and switches/routers in addition to cloud and/or NFV equipment. Other standards and open source organizations such as Open-O are considering the same type of approach from an open source perspective.
TOSCA is one of many different cloud data models, including the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF)’s Netconf/YANG and the TM Form’s SID. Depending on the equipment or software vendors, these can be supported in different combinations, and each has a different way of operation. But one thing is clear: Open data models are going to be increasingly important, as more open NFV technologies permeate the service provider cloud.