& cplSiteName &

Telcos Clamoring for Cloud-Native VNFs

Caroline Chappell
6/15/2016
50%
50%

Speaking on "The Composable Telco" panel at Light Reading's Big Communications Event in Austin at the end of May, Doug Nassaur, General Manager and Lead Principal Technical Architect for AT&T's Domain 2.0 initiative, pointed out that virtualized network functions (VNFs) urgently need to be developed as cloud-native applications, because early virtualized versions consume far too much hardware in their quest for high availability.

Nassaur represents AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) in the Open Container Initiative (OCI) and Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF), and his is not the only voice urging the telecom industry to produce cloud-native VNFs as soon as possible. BCE keynote speaker, David Amzallag, head of SDN and NFV at Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD), announced that he has put network equipment vendors on notice: Vodafone will only buy VNFs designed specifically to operate in the cloud from now on. (See BCE 2016: A Sea Change at Vodafone.)

A growing number of operators are similarly supportive of the cloud-native movement, including Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT) and Tele2 AB (Nasdaq: TLTO). In March 2016, the latter explained the problems with the current generation of VNF software, ported straight out of appliances into large, stateful, monolithic VMs. (See NFV App Architecture Must Improve – Tele2.)

Tele2 also made the excellent point that operators can't rely on the NFVi and VIM (typically OpenStack) alone to guarantee the carrier-grade performance and reliability of VNFs.

Panelists on BCE's New Telco Data Center panel agreed. They reckoned that operators can score six nines of availability across low-cost NFV infrastructure as long as VNFs have been architected to expect its failure. VNFs should be immune to switch, fan, CPU, VM and even whole availability zone crashes, maintaining service resilience and the right customer experience despite them.

The endgame of NFV is to take the network into the cloud for elasticity and scale. As I pointed out at the now-distant Executive Summit Light Reading held in Iceland at the end of 2014, the cloud is a holistic system. It is baked from a number of ingredients, all of which need to be present at the same time for the cloud to function. The cloud is simultaneously based on: commodity, "throwaway" hardware; a highly modular, scalable and available application architecture; and robust orchestration that treats applications as disposable "cattle."

Operators that wish to build the cloud have a problem: There are currently very few "cattle" VNFs around, so a major ingredient is missing. To compensate, the telecom industry has spent considerable effort on scoping and building a carrier-grade infrastructure for NFV. There is a lot of focus on shoehorning into OpenStack the means to guarantee the carrier-grade availability, performance and security of large, stateful and fragile first-generation VNFs. But this is not a sustainable, long-term solution for network virtualization -- as the leading operators mentioned are very well aware.

So they are ratcheting up the pressure on VNF vendors to change. This will be a difficult process: Established network equipment vendors have millions of lines of highly tested and tuned code that don't translate easily into a cloud-native architecture, and they need to keep up with demand in their current businesses while trying to transition to the new cloud world. There are challenging technical issues to overcome: how to handle state; what VNF management looks like in a cloud-native environment; the impact of cloud-native practices, such as continuous integration, on the VNF control plane; and the maintenance implications for cloud-native VNFs.

There are lessons to be learned from the experience of designing IT applications for the cloud, but as the industry now appreciates, many VNFs have very different requirements from IT applications, and the jury is still out on whether the two can, and will, start to resemble one another in a cloud-native context.

The clamor for cloud-native VNFs is growing and will only get louder over the next couple of years. Operators have firmly identified VNF architecture as the next hurdle to leap on the critical path to NFV.

Join our discussion of Reliability, Availability, and Serviceability at Cloud Scale on Wednesday, June 15, at 12:00 p.m. EST. This Red Hat-sponsored webinar will offer advice to operators and vendors seeking a holistic, cloud-based answer to the challenges of carrier-grade NFV.

This blog is sponsored by Red Hat.

— Caroline Chappell, Practice Leader, Cloud & NFV, Heavy Reading

(2)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
mendyk
50%
50%
mendyk,
User Rank: Light Sabre
6/15/2016 | 12:14:58 PM
Re: So this all begs the question....
Whenever I see or hear the term "composable telco," I think about the odorous piles of dead vegetation that some people insist on keeping in their backyards.
Ray@LR
100%
0%
Ray@LR,
User Rank: Blogger
6/15/2016 | 11:34:09 AM
So this all begs the question....
So this all begs the question.... who has Cloud-Native VNFs?
More Blogs from Heavy Lifting Analyst Notes
Three strategic initiatives &ndash Novitas, Stratus and Sentio &ndash have powered Colt's move into on-demand services.
Next week at BCE, we'll look at some of the ways machine learning and AI will help operators make the customer experience better, without driving up the cost of network operations.
The Aussie operator is trying to reinvent itself, and its network-as-a-service is a vital piece of the transformation puzzle.
Every network operators business case is different but what remains true is that combining the disciplines needed to get value from data requires a very collaborative organization.
Universal customer premises equipment (uCPE) systems are growing rapidly, paving the way for new opportunities, lowered costs and increased performance overall.
Featured Video
From The Founder
John Chambers is still as passionate about business and innovation as he ever was at Cisco, finds Steve Saunders.
Flash Poll
Upcoming Live Events
June 26, 2018, Nice, France
September 12, 2018, Los Angeles, CA
September 24-26, 2018, Westin Westminster, Denver
October 9, 2018, The Westin Times Square, New York
October 17, 2018, Chicago, Illinois
October 23, 2018, Georgia World Congress Centre, Atlanta, GA
November 7-8, 2018, London, United Kingdom
November 8, 2018, The Montcalm by Marble Arch, London
November 15, 2018, The Westin Times Square, New York
December 4-6, 2018, Lisbon, Portugal
All Upcoming Live Events
Hot Topics
NFV Is Down but Not Out
Iain Morris, News Editor, 5/22/2018
What VeloCloud Cost VMware
Phil Harvey, US News Editor, 5/21/2018
Trump Denies ZTE Deal, Faces Senate Backlash
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 5/22/2018
5G in the USA: A Post-BCE Update
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 5/23/2018
Are Oracle's Aggressive Sales Tactics Backfiring?
Mitch Wagner, Mitch Wagner, Editor, Enterprise Cloud, Light Reading, 5/22/2018
Animals with Phones
Live Digital Audio

A CSP's digital transformation involves so much more than technology. Crucial – and often most challenging – is the cultural transformation that goes along with it. As Sigma's Chief Technology Officer, Catherine Michel has extensive experience with technology as she leads the company's entire product portfolio and strategy. But she's also no stranger to merging technology and culture, having taken a company — Tribold — from inception to acquisition (by Sigma in 2013), and she continues to advise service providers on how to drive their own transformations. This impressive female leader and vocal advocate for other women in the industry will join Women in Comms for a live radio show to discuss all things digital transformation, including the cultural transformation that goes along with it.

Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed