ETSI (News - Alert) released its first update to the NFV framework recently. This update includes several documents outlining the framework and scenarios where NFV can be applied and the communications service providers can benefit. This is an exceptional starting point to deliver on the value and vision of the NFV framework.
To understand what the ETSI working group and the CSPs are looking to accomplish, we can look at the objectives summary in GS NFV 002 (Architectural Framework) 4.2, summarized here:
* Improved capital efficiencies compared with dedicated hardware implementations: This is achieved by using commercial-off-the-shelf hardware (i.e. general purpose servers and storage devices). Sharing of hardware and reducing the number of different hardware architectures in a network also contribute to this objective.
* Improved flexibility in assigning VNFs to hardware: This aids both scalability and largely decouples functionality from location, which allows software to be located at the most appropriate places.
* Rapid service innovation through software-based service deployment.
* Improved operational efficiencies resulting from common automation and operating procedures.
* Reduced power usage achieved by migrating workloads and powering down unused hardware.
* Standardized and open interfaces between virtualized network functions and the infrastructure and associated management entities so that such decoupled elements can be provided by different vendors.
As discussed in my last column, NFV depends on four key components to be successful in design and implementation. That includes virtualization, abstraction, programmability, and orchestration. It is encouraging to see that all of these aspects are addressed in the objectives.
When we look at the details, though, it is not surprising to note that orchestration is not described in detail beyond the framework necessary to build the orchestration system. Details can be found within the Management and Orchestration working group. The NFV Orchestrator is a complex component that requires northbound and southbound connectivity using standardized communications models.
The biggest benefit of orchestration of the NFV framework is not the OSS coordination of the NFV elements. There is an opportunity for the NFVO to act as a central intelligence to collect, analyze, and act upon data and metrics received from the NFV components. This central intelligence should have the ability to perform network behavioral analysis like functions to collate and correlate inputs from multiple sources and multiple vendors.
The analysis is used to determine an appropriate course of action, whether that may be to spin up more virtual resources to meet demand, redirect traffic based on subscriber and content for intelligent traffic steering to value-added services solutions, or to apply rate limits and security measures to protect infrastructure and subscribers from security threats.
Once analyzed and a course of action is identified, the NFVO should be able to make calls out to the NFV components to adjust or reconfigure them to apply the policy inline and in real time. The ability of the NFVO to receive the data from the NFV ecosystem and then direct the disparate components to enable to defined policy realizes the full potential of the NFV architectural framework beyond the immediate physical and virtual benefits. The CSPs want to create a synergy where the value of the solution is greater than the sum of the components.
Edited by Ryan Sartor