NFV (Network functions virtualization)

NFV Group Finds Its Feet

BAD HOMBURG, Germany – SDN & OpenFlow World Congress – With its initial stormy months of internal conflict behind it, the ETSI NFV Industry Specification Group (ISG) has settled down to peaceful cooperation and is producing documents and guidance that, it hopes, will help set the industry agenda for network functions virtualization (NFV) developments in the years to come. (See: Carriers Peer Into Virtual World.)

That the group (officially formed in January 2013) took time to find its feet and reach some consensus about what it was trying to achieve is now an open secret, having been hinted at strongly by AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)'s Margaret Chiosi at the recent Ethernet & SDN Expo in New York and now here by Telefónica SA (NYSE: TEF)'s Diego Lopez, who noted Thursday that some of the NFV ISG meetings "have not been easy."

That may be understandable, though, when you have 28 large carriers and more than 100 vendors all trying to reach a consensus over anything.

Now, though, the group appears to have sorted out its squabbles and has just published five NFV specifications documents -- use cases, requirements, the architectural framework, terminology, and "a framework for coordinating and promoting public demonstrations of Proof of Concept platforms illustrating key aspects of NFV."

What's it's not doing is aiming to create standards. The documents are "expected implementation instances" and guidance around expectations from the network operators, noted Don Clarke, head of Network Evolution Innovation at BT Group plc and chair of the Network Operator Council at the NFV ISG.

He said the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) group now needs to work out how it relates to and works with standards groups and the open-source community and figure out what happens after the ISG comes to the end of its life in January 2015 (the group had a set life of two years).

The NFV ISG is also looking at further ways to engage with open-source groups and also to involve universities and other institutions in its work. "A programmable environment encourages innovation… we're looking for input from academia."

One particular area where everyone involved is looking for external help is in the field of OSS and orchestration tools for software-defined networking (SDN) and NFV deployments. "The OSS story is key," noted Clarke, before adding that this is an area where all operators would likely be working at very different paces and with different strategies. Some will see the introduction of SDN and NFV as an opportunity to overhaul their entire OSS portfolios while others will take a much more incremental approach.

And it's clear from the conference rooms and show floor here in Bad Homburg that the OSS and virtual asset management issue is the one that appears the most challenging (though none of it is easy). Deutsche Telekom AG is trying out one new way to manage its TeraStream pilot network in Croatia with software developed on the Yang language, but the consensus here is that there will be very many approaches. (See: Deutsche Telekom: A Software-Defined Operator.)

That presents a real opportunity for the IT community to step up with some answers and options and also sounds alarm bells for many of the traditional OSS suppliers in the telecom industry, which so far do not appear to have stepped up to the plate with any notable answers for the likes of Deutsche Telekom.

— Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

snoble 10/17/2013 | 6:25:31 PM
Re: Coordinating all these different efforts The NFV WG has done a good job of defining what NFV is.  My expectation is that end users should expect to see more virtual appliances focused on being VNFs, rather than full solutions.
Carol Wilson 10/17/2013 | 12:18:06 PM
Coordinating all these different efforts It's a positive step that the NFV group isn't going to develop standards, I guess, since that process often takes much longer than the two years the group is expected to exist. With so many different organizations at work on all of this, will the NFV group at least be providing leadership? Or will service providers likely be charting their own path and relying heavily on their vendors?
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