SDN and NFV both promise hardware vendor independence, improved operational efficiency, standardized and open interfaces, and the dynamic chaining of network functions to create new services. Both require centralized orchestration and management. NFV's initial focus is on the virtualization of individual network functions, while SDN's focus is on stitching together network topologies in a programmable way. There is no doubt in the minds of the operators that quality of experience (QoE) will be the critical factor in making SDN and NFV initiatives successful and realize their dream of a programmable network.
From a service management standpoint, the challenges can be very interesting. SDN's goal is centralized management and control of networking devices from multiple vendors in order to improve automation and management by using common application programming interfaces (APIs) to abstract the underlying networking details from the orchestration and provisioning systems and applications.
Operators today have multiple siloed fulfillment stacks that lack end-to-end network device management or configuration management capability. In fact, most service fulfillment offerings today do not have horizontal service-centric device management capability. This prevents service providers from having an end-to-end view of network devices, services running on those services, and customers and applications impacted.
QoE will make or break SDN and NFV initiatives. End-customers, whether they are consumers or enterprise customers, do not care about the underlying technology, as long as they get the best services at affordable price points. Service assurance processes must be able to work in close alignment with service chaining and service fulfillment and must perform real-time tracking and monitoring of network resources.
Next-generation service management platforms need to borrow principles of self-organizing networks (SON), and have self-healing capabilities to take care of device constraints or provisioning issues proactively, based on service quality, before the issues impact the customer experience. The dynamism of a next-generation hybrid virtualized service world demands self-monitoring for anomalous events in the network and the ability to diagnose and fix those issues dynamically. This enables load balancing. It also optimizes network resources, which provides economic benefits to service providers. Next-generation service management platforms should be able to arm service providers with the ability to preempt service degradation by constantly monitoring, measuring, and maintaining their service metrics in real time.
There needs to be an underlying big data/advanced analytics platform supporting performance management and assurance. Big-data predictive analytics needs to be a key component of next-generation service management systems, which will help to identify trends, patterns, and subscriber behaviors. This will help in service assurance by examining data on network performance, availability, and latency to support customer experience and operational planning, and will ensure compliance with cloud services SLAs.
In my recent report, End-to-End Service Management for SDN & NFV: Part 1, I discuss this topic in detail and examine how today's myopic standards need to evolve to provide a holistic service management strategy. In an upcoming webinar sponsored by Monolith Software, Decoding the Importance of Service Assurance in a Virtualized World, on April 30, we will discuss the critical role of service assurance in this context.
Please also read Carol Wilson's note on the same topic, Report: NFV/SDN Standards "Myopic" on Service Management.
— Ari Banerjee, Senior Analyst, Heavy Reading