6 Dec 2017

The Future of NFV


I am very excited that our company, SDN Essentials has joined the New IP agency. As a services only company we hope to provide benefits to the testing and interrogability goals of the New IP Agency.

As a services only company it has given us a very unique slice into the world of virtual functions. We have worked with Service Providers, Managed Service Provides, and yes, even Enterprises in several projects around VNF Validation (Functional, Interop, and Scale testing) and orchestration. In all of our projects, we have noticed that functional and scale testing usually work as desired with just a few tweaks, but the interop testing is still a challenge. This begs the question of why, and how can we overcome this?

As we know, the ETSI group has attempted to create some standards around the entire framework of NFV, a daunting task, and one that still has ways to go. The ETSI framework came out very quickly, which meant there were several implementation details left up to the implementers. This created a space where VNF’s functions where unique by vendor or open source project. This bled over to other aspects of the NFV architecture such as orchestration. However, I do not want to put blame on ETSI, as they took a problem head on, and due to their vigorous work has helped us as an industry take a huge step forward.

However, while we have been building standards, we have been figuring out where and how to run applications. While a lot of VNF’s are built on top of a virtualized server via hypervisors, when working with multiple vendors, it has been realized that overhead of virtualization leads to big blobs of custom code. This is not the “simple” network that NFV has long been advertised to achieve. After the hypervisor of course came containers, which has proven to have better management capacities but still require quite a bit of custom code for interrogability. Let’s just throw in the future of “compute anywhere” and the simplicity of NFV just got very complicated! We need to get to the point where an VNF is not an appliance but is treated as an application that helps drive and change network behavior.

Of course it is easy to point out issues, without providing a way to solve them. This is the reason that SDN Essentials has joined the New IP, in order to help establish a baseline of where we are at now, and where we need to be in order to achieve the true simplicity and agility that NFV promises. This will be in the way of testing and most importantly, reports of these tests. This will drive some companies to improve on their products while others will be left to play catch-up. However, with proper testing we can get start to achieve some clarity around the wild west of NFV.

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