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Leveraging Virtualization

Feb 15, 2013
Marc Cohn
Marc Cohn About the author

Report from the ETSI NFV meeting.

Sophia Antipolis, France — When 20 of the world’s largest carriers band together to address a broad technology initiative, the networking industry takes notice. From Jan. 15-17, 2013, the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) convened the initial meeting of the Industry Specification Group (ISG) for Network Function Virtualization (NFV) in Sophia Antipolis in the south of France.

NFV represents a broad initiative to consolidate dedicated servers’ ‘Network Functions’ into a virtualized computing environment, resulting in significant anticipated cost savings on both the CapEx and OpEx ledgers. Network functions in this context include the software typically running in the control plane/Control Layer for traffic management, load balancing, identify and address management, quality of service, and service quality monitoring, to name but a few. In the SDN architecture, we refer to these as ‘Network Services’ to avoid confusion with the applications domain.

Last October, a dozen carriers met at the 2012 SDN and OpenFlow® World Congress in Darmstadt, Germany (where the ONF hosted a SDN and OpenFlow® tutorial) resulting in the publication of a NFV White Paper that addresses the objectives, high-level description, and plans for NFV ‘for encouraging an international collaboration to accelerate development and deployment of interoperable solutions based on high volume industry standard servers.’

As a result, the Carriers decided to pursue NFV through ETSI, and formed an ISG to analyze the requirements, assessing the cost implications relative to the current compute/network infrastructure. The ISG leadership was announced, consisting of: ISG Chair – Prodip Sen (Verizon), who also serves on the ONF Board of Directors; ISG Vice Chair – Uwe Michel (DT); Technical Manager – Don Clarke (BT); and Assistant Technical Manager – Diego Lopez (Telefonica).  An Operator’s Council was formed to provide strategic guidance, along with a technical steering committee to offer technical direction to the NFV working groups (WGs) and expert groups (addressing cross-WG issues).

As opposed to creating standards, the ISG’s charter is to issue recommendations that will be carried into existing Standards Development Organizations (SDOs) along with industry forum including the ONF.  With several ONF members already participating in the ETSI NFV ISG, we already have a solid basis for collaboration. To foster cooperation, the next meeting of the ETSI NFV ISG has been planned for Apr. 22-23, to coincide with the Open Networking Summit and ONF Member Work Day in Santa Clara.

Figure 1 illustrates the baseline architecture. This diagram serves as a starting point for the NFV Architecture Working Group, but has not yet been finalized. NFV is broken into broad functional domains including the Applications Domain (where Network Functions reside), and the underlying framework, consisting of the HyperVisor, Compute, Infrastructure Network, and Management and Orchestration domains. The NFV architecture explicitly is defined to be complementary to SDN. However, recognizing the early stage in the SDN lifecycle, it is desirable to realize the benefits of NFV based on existing network architectures.


Figure 1- Baseline Network Function Virtualization Architecture
Source: DRAFT: Architecture of the NFV- Discussion Document (Contributed by Andy Reid, BT, Jan. 9, 2013)

Not surprisingly, the response was tremendous to the first group meeting:

  • > 150 pre-registrants
  • > 20 major carriers present:
    AT&T, BT, China Mobile, Colt, DT, KDDI, NTT, Orange, Telecom Italia, Telefonica, Verizon, Vodafone etc.
  • > 100 attendees  from >  50 firms
  • >  50 NFV contributions submitted

As a result of the meeting, the NFV ISG formed the following Working Groups:

  • WG1: Infrastructure Architecture, Co-Chairs: Steve Wright (AT&T) and Yun Chao HU (Huawei)
  • WG2: Management and Orchestration, Co-Chairs: Diego Lopez (Telefonica) and Raquel Morera (Verizon)
  • WG3: Software Architecture, Co-Chairs: Fred Feisullin (Sprint) and TBD
  • WG4: Reliability and Availability, Chair: Naseem Khan (VZ), Vice-Chair: Markus Schoeller (NEC)
  • Expert Groups
    • Security, Chair: Bob Briscoe, BT
    • Performance and Portability, Chair: Francisco Javier Ramon Salguero (Telefonica)

While the NFV represents a highly ambitious initiative, there was a sense of pragmatism permeating the initial meeting. The ISG set a timetable of 18-24 months for the work and encouraged subject matter experts to contribute, to enable the carriers to understand the incremental cost implications of migrating to the virtualized environment. Firms ranging from semiconductors to systems participated in the initial meeting, with larger firms contributing multiple representatives to address assess the implications of NFV and address wide-reaching issues.

NFV represents yet another end-user-driven initiative consistent with the spirit of SDN. The widespread carrier involvement, collaboration with vendors, and orientation towards implementation set the stage for a successful model. Next on the agenda – execution!

-Marc Cohn

Marc Cohn serves as the Chair of the ONF Market Education Committee. He is a Senior Director of Market Development at Ciena. For over 20 years, Marc has driven and promoted successful communications software products for the Data Communications and Telecommunications markets as the industry was transformed by the IP revolution.

Marc Cohn