Analyst Unveils Open Source Model for NFV-SDN Management

Carol Wilson
News Analysis
Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large

Veteran industry analyst Tom Nolle, the man who originated the CloudNFV initiative, today launches his latest next-generation networking project -- a universal, open source management and orchestration model named ExperiaSphere.

Nolle's goal is lofty: He is proposing an approach that manages and orchestrates physical and virtual resources, bridges existing operations and business support systems, and enables service delivery.

In short, the CIMI Corp. president is essentially trying to provide a path to deployment for NFV and SDN, believing strongly that without high-level orchestration and management and an operations framework, virtualization in the telecom sector could be spinning its wheels for some time to come.

"If somebody doesn't put pressure on this process, we could be having the same conversation in two years with no more progress to report than we have today," Nolle tells Light Reading. "We could have a whole series of vendor promises that turn out to be, 'well, maybe next year it will come along.' We need to do more than that, or NFV and SDN both are going to fall flat on their face."

Nolle is universally releasing his open source model to anyone who wants to use it without any restrictions (the exception being the protection of the ExperiaSphere trademark), and is also launching a Google+ community around ExperiaSphere that he will moderate. The series of tutorials he is launching today explain the model in depth, and can be accessed here and here.

The details
Like CloudNFV , ExperiaSphere is based on two principles Nolle developed earlier, which he calls Structured Intelligence and Derived Operations.

Unlike CloudNFV, the new project is intended to be based on open source components wherever possible, in large part because Nolle says network operators are asking for such an open approach. (See Answering the NFV Management Challenge.)

"ExperiaSphere is my attempt to ensure we have an open strategy by defining it in open source terms," Nolle says. "You could still implement this architecture in a proprietary way -- functionally, it is similar to CloudNFV. At the end of the day, it accomplishes them in a different way, so you can map the implementation directly to available open source tools."

Structured Intelligence builds on work done by Professor Jorge Cardosa from the University of Coimbra in Portugal, who used two open standards, Linked Universal Service Definition Language (USDL) and topology and orchestration specification for cloud applications (TOSCA), to create a service lifecycle that is data-model centric. Cardosa proved open source tools can be used to do service descriptions and service modeling, but didn't cover the management aspects.

"What USDL lets you do is describe the commercial and parametric aspects of services -- SLAs, payment terms, all these other kinds of stuff," Nolle explains. "TOSCA is a graphic model way of describing how a service deploys and is managed. Using those two things gives me a completely agile and modern framework for describing what a service is and how it would be orchestrated."

Most services are a series of functionality pieces stitched together in a hierarchical manner, and TOSCA is a way of describing the structure, the integration and the management of those pieces, he says. While other options such as the combination of Netconf and Yang are being used to do the same thing, Nolle thinks TOSCA is a stronger bet. (See Netconf & Yang Go Mainstream.)

"I think TOSCA is a much stronger way to build something like NFV or any other modern service, because we are moving forward to the day where we have to look at services as collections of hosted components, not network devices," he says.

ExperiaSphere does use some extensions to TOSCA, but in a way that doesn't reduce its open value, notes Nolle.

And yet more detail...
The Derived Operations part of the ExperiaSphere model, which is its management side, will use another open standard, the IETF's infrastructure to application exposure, or i2aex. What that enables is the creation of a series of proxies that allows resources to be allocated without allowing direct access to any device management information base (MIB).

"The i2aex management world consists of a combination of proxies that suck data out of real MIBs and put them into a database, and another set of proxies that extract from the database and present the information to a management system," Nolle says.

ExperiSphere uses that i2aex approach to abstraction to create a virtualized MIB. On the management side, a service -- such as a virtualized firewall -- can be seen as the sum of all of its pieces, including virtualized elements such as parts of servers and elements of a virtual switch, but on the client side, the virtualized firewall appears as one element and is managed as such.

There are more details about this on Nolle's ExperiaSphere blog and also via his tutorials.

Nolle admits he doesn't yet know how his model might be used -- whether it may be picked up by an open source community, or even a single vendor. There are still pieces to be added, and these will require software networking expertise, he says.

"For this to work, there has to be some collection of people that get behind it," Nolle admits.

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

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