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Report: NFV/SDN Standards 'Myopic' on Service Management

Carol Wilson

Current standards efforts around NFV and SDN are failing to take into account what service providers will need to manage services on an end-to-end basis, once they have begun deploying virtualization, notes a Heavy Reading report out this week.

Senior Analyst Ari Banerjee observes in the first of a two-part series on "End-to-End Service Management for SDN & NFV" that standards bodies such as European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) 's NFV Industry Specifications Group are tightly focused on the service management needs of virtualized services and network functions. They are failing to take into account the most complex needs of larger service providers to "manage a complex, hybrid services world, involving a combination of virtualized and non-virtualized network resources.

"Going forward, we expect a hybrid world of virtualized and non-virtualized service that cannot be handled effectively by the simple specifications that standards bodies are currently suggesting," he says.

The risk is that NFV could spawn yet another silo of service management because virtualization will require complex end-to-end management to account for many more moving parts and the need to constantly track availability of network resources, Banerjee tells Light Reading. Or, alternatively, the customer's quality of experience could suffer in the virtualized world if service assurance isn't closely aligned with service fulfillment and real-time tracking and monitoring of network resources.

"Virtual network functions move much more dynamically," he says. That requires tracking and monitoring of real-time changes to the network on a per-application and per-subscriber level, so that virtual resources can be provisioned on the fly or a virtual machine can be moved to a higher capacity server to meet user demand as needed.

His report underscores the importance of end-to-end service management going forward if service providers are going to be able to meet the stated goals of adopting NFV such as bringing new services to market more rapidly and automating the processes that today are performed slowly by manual operations.

One critical aspect of end-to-end service management will be an orchestration layer that also spans the hybrid network and can promote convergence and the ability to manage decision-making across the network, Banerjee notes.

He describes the ETSI NFV ISG efforts to date as too limited to the virtual world, and the TM Forum 's approach as heavily focused on billing operations and support systems. But Banerjee also notes that the Forum is broadening its approach. (See TM Forum Tries ZOOMing to NFV.)

Leading vendors including Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU)'s Cloudband group, Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), and Nokia Networks are also tackling the broader scope of service management, and their work could still be brought to the standards bodies, Banerjee notes. The second part of his end-to-end service management report will look at individual vendor efforts and how close they come to addressing the broader problems.

— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading

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User Rank: Lightning
4/18/2014 | 5:27:09 PM
Re: My take

Every operator we're engaged with that's looking at NFV and SDN PoCs, trials, or deployments understands that orchestration and service assurance encapsulates both virtualized and non-virtualized resources to deliver an end-to-end service. AND that it's the legacy non-virtualized network elements that's the hard part. 

At the recent Mobile World Congress, we demonstrated orchestration of various physical and non-virtualized devices such as NIDs, eNodeBs, packet optical switches, data center gateways and virtualized devices such as COTS data center resources. These PoCs led by both ETSI and operators themselves are an important first step in creating real life, repeatable solutions that will seamlessly merge the orchestration of virtualized and non-virtualized resources. In our opinion, the practical answer to this question is by use-case. Right now, the customers are dictating which network elements need to be under control by the orchestration solution -- and we build the adaptors to make sure that it works based on how serious the customer is (funded projects, actual lab trials).  

Would it be convenient to have one standard for how these elements are managed? Yes. Is there one today? No. In the meantime, we'll certainly continue to follow the standards conversation, but we're not waiting for it. It's important to keep moving forward with customers, bringing more elements under orchestration and management, publish an SDK for more rapid element adaptor development by the community-at-large, and deploy.

Just some thoughts from the trenches...



User Rank: Light Sabre
4/17/2014 | 2:03:24 PM
Re: My take
OSMINE is looking pretty sweet eh?

Just kidding.

But I do think without a central authority like Bell Labs + BellCore the idea of getting all these vendors on the same page seems highly unlikely.  Trying to build such a model on an international basis with multiple groups and have the level of coordination just seems like a fool's mission.

User Rank: Light Sabre
4/17/2014 | 11:06:11 AM
My take
 Thanks for all the comments. One of the critical areas where OSS in most operators' organization is such a mess is because they do not addressing the device layer effectively. New device introduction meant more service revenue for OSS vendors and that bad practice continued. Alignment between configuration management and service activation was necessary but never completely addressed. This problem will increase and become more complex when we step into this hybrid world which will now consist of physical and virtual resources. The other disconnect is between service fulfillment and service assurance. We cannot afford to deal with siloes of fulfilment and assurance when it comes to this hybrid world which needs to look at service management holistically. My report looks at all these aspects and more and I also provide a future architecture view to bridge this chasm. I appreciate the fact that TMF is doing more in the past few months than they have done in the initial days of SDN and NFV. Yet in our last 3 operators surveys (conducted in 2013-14) are pointing to the fact that operators believe that ETSI, ONF, Open Daylight etc. organizations/initiatives are more potent when it comes to SDN and NFV initiatives.  Our surveys only talked to decision makers within operator organizations who are very closely involved with SDN and NFV initiatives. TMF comes way below around in terms of importance. This report of mine is based on detailed consulting, advisory work we have done with bunch of leading operators and vendors in the past few months.
Carol Wilson
Carol Wilson,
User Rank: Blogger
4/16/2014 | 6:09:45 PM
Re: Correction

Thanks for the response. I didn't get into a ton of details about Ari's report for a couple of reasons, one of them being we don't give all that info away for free! But you know him and I'm sure the two of you can discuss it further. 

I think your comment about the need for collaboration is spot-on - and clearly there's going to need to be newer players involved in this round of collaboration than have been engaged in the past, something I think you mentioned to me in our discussion of Zoom. 
User Rank: Light Beer
4/16/2014 | 6:03:06 PM
Re: Correction

I did not pick the device layer specific concern from the original post. However, if that is the case, TM Forum does not typically focus on device/physical layer protocols. So your observation is accurate. TM Forum partners with other organizations that have the critical mass of subject matter experts to address the physical layer concern. Examples would be our work with 3GPP, BBF, MEF etc. In fact TM Forum published a document TR 178 Enabling End-to-End Cloud SLA Management http://www.tmforum.org/TechnicalReports/TR178EnablingEndtoEnd/50148/article.html

 that discusses the strength of various organizations and makes a proposal on how we should work together to enable the required end-to-end view. (this was developed with participation of a number of SDOs over several months)

We also have a number of catalyst slated for TM Forum Live! that address with specific issue of an end-to-end view in a hybrid, virtualize/non-virtualized environment so our members echo Ari interest and concern over this topic.

The problem is too complex and scope too broad for any one organization to address alone, it is going to require collaboration and cooperation across the expert groups.



Carol Wilson
Carol Wilson,
User Rank: Blogger
4/16/2014 | 5:26:10 PM
Re: Correction
Liz, I've added a link to the Zoom story from earlier this year. As I said in the story, Ari did acknowledge the Forum's effort to broaden its coverage.

The report specifically refers to the need to include device configurations as part of end-to-end service management and that's where Ari finds that TM Forum's existing standards don't go far enough to address the device layer.  If that's not true, let me know. 

User Rank: Lightning
4/16/2014 | 5:18:37 PM
Glad to see the continual coverage of the NFV challenge by LR and HR, but just a note that TM Forum has a much broader approach than billing operations and support systems. Our members are tackling NFV from a variety of angles through our ZOOM project, and Catalyst program for TM Forum Live! in Nice, and looking at the big picture approach to management, including network management, performance management, SLAs, security and more. Check out the full Catalyst line up to see what's going on in the Forum now and the companies driving our work. The NFV-focused Catalysts are way beyond billing and support: Managing Virtual Machines through Service Level Agreements (SLAs); CloudNFV: Adaptive Management Built on Frameworx ; NFV Management Ecosystem; Simplifying Operations Automation: Converged Network Optimization in a Virtual Environment; Mission Critical Business Services In The Cloud; Closing The Loop: Data-Driven Network Performance Optimization for NGMN Self-optimizing Networks (SON) and Service Bundling in a B2B2X Marketplace.
Mitch Wagner
Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
4/16/2014 | 5:17:34 PM
Re: Overlay
True. Overlays add more complication. They're another layer to manage, rather than another silo (so to speak). But still another thing to manage. 
Carol Wilson
Carol Wilson,
User Rank: Blogger
4/16/2014 | 4:44:19 PM
Re: Service management
I think there is some resistance to creating yet-another group - the work begins to get fragmented. But we'll see. 
Carol Wilson
Carol Wilson,
User Rank: Blogger
4/16/2014 | 4:43:27 PM
Re: Overlay
I'll let ARi speak for himself but overlays, from my perspective, fall into the category of solutions that may work fine for now, in the early days of virtualization, but won't do the end-to-end service management piece going forward because they don't ncessarily touch all the network resources that would be part of a broader solution.
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