Light Reading

Two Faces of Distributed NFV

Carol Wilson
3/13/2014
100%
0%

In the era of virtualization, greater distinctions may develop between carriers and the services they offer as network operators adopt unique approaches to common service delivery concepts.

One example of how different priorities can influence deployments can already be seen in the instance of Distributed NFV, one of the proofs of concept being considered by the ETSI NFV Industry Specifications Group (ISG).

The idea of Distributed NFV was first publicized by RAD Data Communications Ltd. -- not that surprising as it manufactures customer premises gear. But as a PoC, it is a multi-vendor effort including Cyan Inc. , which is providing orchestration, as well as security vendors Fortinet Inc. and Certes, whose functions are being virtualized. (See ESDN: RAD Rolls Out Distributed NFV Strategy and MWC Offers Peek at NFV Projects.)

So what is Distributed NFV? In this iteration of functions virtualization, some functionality is located at the customer premises on an X86 blade that, for the PoC purposes, is part of RAD's box, which serves as the network interface device. Having some programmability at the customer premises, rather than locating all the intelligence within the network's core, creates different service possibilities.

The PoC sponsor, CenturyLink Inc. (NYSE: CTL), looks at Distributed NFV as an opportunity to advance its managed services strategy, says James Feger, VP of Network Strategy and Development.

"One of our challenges as a company is getting the functionality into the customer suite or customer premises with requests for services and features rapidly changing," he tells Light Reading. By creating a virtual gateway or virtual network interface device (NID) at the customer premises, there is the potential of having a remote resource that becomes part of the virtual service environment and can be programmed with different settings as services change or evolve.

"So things we might want to host in our facilities and data centers and [central offices], like firewall services, could be augmented by having some of that at the premises," he notes. "It's just a matter of which locale makes more sense for that specific function. If you look at something like application awareness, for instance, it could make more sense to have that inside the customer premises versus having it northbound in the network."

From CenturyLink's perspective, the distributed NFV option complements a broader virtualization strategy -- but the jury is still out on what functions best at the edge versus the core, and thus the need for the PoC.

Masergy moving ahead
By contrast, Masergy Communications Inc. , a competitive service provider also focused on managed services, sees Distributed NFV as something it can deploy now, for the express purpose of eliminating most of the hassles it currently faces with maintaining CPE.

"The way we look at something like NFV is that our customers don't really care what the technology is," say Tim Naramore, CTO. "They are pushing us to eliminate all the local premises functions for them, as quickly as possible."

Masergy wants to use Distributed NFV to eliminate multiple discrete boxes at the customer premises, and create cloud-based control of most functions, to eliminate the need to maintain that gear and keep it certified and up-to-date for compliance purposes, Naramore says.

"Having intelligence in a device on the premises and the ability to load VMs [virtual machines] on that and run things opens up a new breed of things for customers," Naramore says. "And they are pushing us to do this."

Both Naramore and Feger say there are things that can't be virtualized and distributed for multiple reasons.

It can also be argued that distributing functions using a vendor box such as RAD's falls short of the virtualization goal of using off-the-shelf hardware in a more 'open' approach, but as Heavy Reading Senior Analyst Caroline Chappell notes, there are practical reasons for considering both options.

"It makes sense to use what you've got instead of putting something completely new in place," she says. "And the actual functions are running on an X86 blade on [RAD's] box. Presumably, you can add anything that can run on an X86."

Having a common orchestration layer may satisfy enough of the "open" requirements that, if pushed further, become impractical.

"We've seen some rowing back in terms of how 'open' all this environment can be," she notes. "There is an argument that the openness is coming from that fact you are using a common service orchestration layer."

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

(10)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
reliaz074
50%
50%
reliaz074,
User Rank: Light Beer
3/17/2014 | 10:58:19 AM
things that can't be virtualized and distributed
An explanation of which functions must remain at the customer edge is found in RAD's D-NFV White Paper, which can be downloaded at http://www.rad.com/21/Distributed-Network-Functions-Virtualization-White-Paper/32548/
Dredgie
50%
50%
Dredgie,
User Rank: Light Sabre
3/14/2014 | 8:05:44 PM
Re: Love is in the air
>> maybe the nuance, here is the fact that the CPE is X86 – though I think even that was assumed in the long-circulating NFV 'use cases' document that includes CPE (i.e. STB & resi-gateway) and edge devices with separated forwarding / control planes.
Carol Wilson
50%
50%
Carol Wilson,
User Rank: Blogger
3/14/2014 | 2:21:40 PM
Re: Love is in the air
They didn't spell them out for the most part but since virtualization of network resources is keyed toward centralized software-based control of network gear, Distributed NFV actually represents the break from the norm, to push some things to the edge (security, for one) that belong there. Most functions are expected to be more centralized and not distributed. 

 
t.bogataj
50%
50%
t.bogataj,
User Rank: Light Sabre
3/14/2014 | 4:09:51 AM
Love is in the air
Carol,

Did Naramore and Feger name the "things that can't be virtualized and distributed", and why not?

T.
Carol Wilson
50%
50%
Carol Wilson,
User Rank: Blogger
3/13/2014 | 9:29:36 PM
Re: Two Faces of Distributed NFV
Mitch,

I think that is what CenturyLink is hoping to learn from the PoC - what is the reality and what are the real benefits. They are taking a very pragmatic approach.
DHagar
50%
50%
DHagar,
User Rank: Light Sabre
3/13/2014 | 6:34:35 PM
Two Faces of Distributed NFV
@FakeMitchWagner, key points, Mitch.  Don't you think the answer to that will be in finding the right solutions that will deliver a viable user experience that makes the managed services a seamless part of operations?    Easy to say but tough to do.  I think if the carriers can develop the right solutions they will have a winning proposition that will be sustainable.
Mitch Wagner
50%
50%
Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
3/13/2014 | 6:04:47 PM
Re: Two Faces of Distributed NFV
Anything that increases flexiblity while reducing the need to locate equipment on customer premises is potentially a winner. The question is whether the reality will live up to the potential. 
DHagar
50%
50%
DHagar,
User Rank: Light Sabre
3/13/2014 | 5:50:00 PM
Two Faces of Distributed NFV
@Carol,  sounds like a very smart move!
Carol Wilson
50%
50%
Carol Wilson,
User Rank: Blogger
3/13/2014 | 5:44:30 PM
Re: Two Faces of Distributed NFV
Both of the service providers I spoke with saw this as an enhancement to what they can deliver through managed services, so network as a service is probably an apt description. 

 
DHagar
50%
50%
DHagar,
User Rank: Light Sabre
3/13/2014 | 4:58:00 PM
Two Faces of Distributed NFV
@Carol, Fascinating!  If I understand correctly, this is opening the door to a NaS (Network-as-Service) capability, which complements other shifts and movement towards virtualization.

That makes sense that some will provide the connectivity (networks and open or standardized systems) and others will focus on services. 

This again points to the user focus and the value technology delivers, more so than the technology itself.

 
Flash Poll
From The Founder
Network architects aiming to upgrade their networks to support agile, open, virtualized services in the 21st century need to consider new criteria when choosing between technology suppliers.
Live Streaming Video
BTE 2015 Sponsor Keynote: HP
Dr. Prodip Sen, CTO, Network Functions Virtualization, HP
LRTV Custom TV
Red Hat Demo

7|2|15   |   10:53   |   (0) comments


Red Hat's Nicolas Lemieux demonstrates how Red Hat is driving innovation through open source communities.
LRTV Custom TV
Red Hat's Approach to OpenStack Adoption

7|2|15   |   5:17   |   (0) comments


Red Hat's Radhesh Balakrishnan outlines his company's open source strategy for both enterprises and telcos.
LRTV Custom TV
The New IP Goes Mobile With vEPC

7|2|15   |   1:12   |   (0) comments


Heavy Reading's Gabriel Brown discusses results of a Light Reading survey sponsored by Brocade that shows a clear commitment by mobile operators to move quickly to virtual EPC deployment.
LRTV Custom TV
Making Business Sense of SDN

7|2|15   |   1:42   |   (0) comments


Results of a Brocade-sponsored survey show that CSPs have a clear sense of SDN use cases but are wrestling with the business case. Sterling Perrin of Heavy Reading looks behind the numbers.
LRTV Custom TV
NFV Will Be Here Sooner Than You Think

7|2|15   |   2:22   |   (0) comments


Forget the usual ten-year cycle for new technologies – NFV will be a core part of CSP networks in five years, based on results of a Brocade-sponsored survey, says Heavy Reading's Caroline Chappell.
LRTV Custom TV
The New IP Gains Traction With CSPs

7|2|15   |   1:42   |   (0) comments


Roz Roseboro of Heavy Reading analyzes results of a Light Reading survey sponsored by Brocade showing that CSPs are getting serious about making the transition to the New IP era.
LRTV Custom TV
It's (Real) Time for Analytics

7|2|15   |   1:42   |   (0) comments


Heavy Reading's Jim Hodges looks at how CSPs say they plan to use analytics to deploy new services in real time as part of The New IP, based on results of a survey sponsored by Brocade.
LRTV Documentaries
IoT in Action

6|30|15   |   1:39   |   (8) comments


Two co-workers discuss the benefits of IoT technology.
LRTV Interviews
Ericsson Opens Up on OPNFV

6|30|15   |   14:16   |   (1) comment


Martin Bäckström, VP and head of industry area Datacom at Ericsson, talks to Light Reading founder and CEO Steve Saunders about the emergence of OPNFV, the importance of standards and Ericsson's OPNFV plans.
LRTV Custom TV
NetNumber Founder Discusses NFV/SDN Impact on SP Networks

6|26|15   |   4:15   |   (0) comments


NetNumber Founder Doug Ranalli examines why SPs need a new network infrastructure for service agility. While NFV and SDN are the tools, the old ways of thinking about signaling control are inhibitors. Doug provides his recommendations.
LRTV Custom TV
Orchestrating NFV vCPE Services Across Multivendor Networks

6|26|15   |   5:46   |   (0) comments


Nirav Modi provides an overview of vCPE, the fastest-growing NFV use case, showing how Cyan's Blue Planet orchestrates vCPE services across a multivendor infrastructure to rapidly deliver new managed services for business customers.
LRTV Custom TV
ZTE at LTE Summit Amsterdam 2015

6|26|15   |     |   (0) comments


As one of the leading global telecommunications providers, ZTE presented its cutting-edge technology at LTE World Summit 2015 in Amsterdam. On display at ZTE's booth were the latest R&D achievements in wireless, 5G development, HetNet, deep convergence of FDD and TDD, and RCS/IMD/iSDN/vCN.
Upcoming Live Events
September 16-17, 2015, The Westin Galleria Dallas, Dallas, TX
September 29-30, 2015, The Westin Grand Müchen, Munich, Germany
October 6, 2015, The Westin Peachtree Plaza, Atlanta, GA
October 6, 2015, Westin Peachtree Plaza, Atlanta, GA
October 14-15, 2015, New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, New Orleans, LA
November 5, 2015, Hilton Santa Clara, Santa Clara, CA
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
Hot Topics
Who's Feeding Fiber to LinkNYC Hotspots?
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 6/29/2015
Colt to Jettison Ailing IT Business
Iain Morris, News Editor, 6/30/2015
Eurobites: Activist Investor Takes Stake in AlcaLu
Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, 6/30/2015
What's a Gigabit Good For?
Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large, 7/1/2015
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
Webinar Archive
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
Casa Systems has been going from strength to strength over the last couple of years. In 2013, it became the first vendor to ship an integrated CCAP device -- the ...
Cedrik Neike, SVP of Global Service Provider, Service Delivery, at Cisco, talks to Light Reading founder and CEO Steve Saunders about solving service provider customer problems in a virtualized, DevOps world, including multivendor support and the future of network procurement.
Cats with Phones