NFV (Network functions virtualization)

Will TM Forum Disclose Role in SDN/NFV?

Virtualization was a minor topic at last May's TM Forum Management World in Nice, France. Software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV) took a back seat to the forum's digital services initiative.

This week in San Jose, however, the management challenges around SDN/NFV are likely to be front and center at Digital Disruption, the forum's newly renamed Americas event.

In fact, we should get a much clearer view this week of the extent to which the TM Forum is stepping up to tackle the issues around the management and network orchestration (MANO) layer of NFV. We should also get some clues on the way big data analytics will connect with SDN to make networks more responsive to real-time challenges such as congestion.

Intriguingly, the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) 's NFV Industry Specification Group is meeting just a few stops up the Caltrain line in Sunnyvale to show the progress of its work. (See: A Big Week for NFV.)

The TM Forum's engagement with NFV/SDN isn't so obvious in the 2013 TM Forum Case Study Handbook (registration required), the annual look at real-world deployments of its Frameworx suite of standards-based tools and best-practices that is showcased at this fall event. But that's not too surprising. Case studies are based on real-world deployments, and SDN/NFV won't be real-world for a while. The virtualization twins are expected to be major topics of discussion here, and that will include how Frameworx and its Information Framework, also known as the SID, may play a role.

Backers of some specific efforts to address the MANO layer, such as the CloudNFV initiative, say they are building on SID basics in developing their approach. Nik Willetts, chief strategy officer of the forum, has indicated in previous interviews that his organization is interviewing CTOs and CIOs to develop a practical plan for supporting NFV; it is looking at a two- to three-year horizon for deployment.

Some industry experts, such as Heavy Reading senior analyst Caroline Chappell, have said the SID will need augmentation before it can support virtualization and cloud services. (See: NFV in the Cloud: It's Complicated).

One of the things I'm on the hunt for at Digital Disruption is clear signs of what's on the TM Forum roadmap in support of virtualization. As my colleague, Sarah Reedy, noted last Friday, we heard from the forum's brain trust on other key issues (namely big data) in last week's Live Chat, and I think we will be hearing much more on NFV/SDN in San Jose. (See: Big Data, Sans Hype .)

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

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[email protected] 10/30/2013 | 5:12:07 AM
New way of thinking required I'll be interested too to see what comes out of the TMF event this week because embracing and engaging with the NFV revolution/evolution involves way more than seeing how existing approaches to network management can play into a virtualized world - a lot of it will involve 'letting go', and that's something the telecom world finds very hard to do.

Here's a question for folks attending the TMF event this week, with regards to NFV:

IN an open source world, are there are any 'standards' as the telecom sector knows/understands them?
TomNolle 10/29/2013 | 2:43:45 PM
Re: There's More than You Think Jenny Huang and John Strassner, both key leaders in the sessions, were both given detailed briefings on CloudNFV and our approach.  I hope that an open strategy can help bridge the viewpoints!
Carol Wilson 10/29/2013 | 2:35:41 PM
Re: There's More than You Think When you get as many people in the room as there were yesterday, I think there are always folks who have a negative POV. So don't get too discouraged yet.
TomNolle 10/29/2013 | 2:05:42 PM
Re: There's More than You Think That's interesting and a bit disappointing, Carol.  As you know, I've said from the first that it was critical to integrate NFV into TMF processes.  If that were a big problem I could understand resistance, but I think we've proved in CloudNFV that not only is it not difficult to achieve at least a fair congruence with TMF, it's actually highly beneficial.

I had dinner with some NFV leadership in Frankfurt and I suggested then that there be some mechanism to improve PoC feedback into TMF and other bodies, including the ONF.

But in fairness I have to recap a story on the topic.  I did a briefing at a Tier One on emerging management architectures, and I had a question on one of my slides from an attendee who wanted to make it clear that it was "essential" that they be able to maintain current management practices.  Then the person NEXT to them said that they wanted to understand how my vision would help them SCRAP current management practices!  I think that the reality is that the TMF model is very helpful and in some cases absolutely insightful.  It's not always implemented up to its full potential.
Carol Wilson 10/29/2013 | 1:35:47 PM
Re: There's More than You Think Tom,

There was a lot of discussion yesterday about doing NFV PoCs as part of a TM Forum catalyst. Having been a big fan of Catalysts in the past for their real-world flavor, I thought that was also an interesting option. 

But there seems to be resistance from some NFV ISG folks to the TM Forum process. Although, during the part of the meeting I sat in on - and it was a small part of a long day of discussion - it was clear that individuals within the NFV ISG didn't agree with each other on everything either. 

I'm pursuing more formal discussion with the Forum on these topics this week, and will report further. Caroline, I may be able to get some answers for you as well.
TeleWRTRLiz 10/29/2013 | 1:06:37 PM
Re: There's More than You Think Yesterday's NFV Workshop here at Digital Disruption was standing room only and the discussion was fast and furious for 7 hours straight. As Carol noted, it's clear that there is a lot to work out but TM Forum is already looking at the challenges and impacts of NFV and starting a number of proof-of-concept programs to ensure OSS/BSS doesn't slow down NFV adoption or exploitation of its full benefits. Let me look into getting more info on the Catalysts that Tom mentioned and I'll report back. Stay tuned for more info from #dd13.


TomNolle 10/29/2013 | 10:43:47 AM
There's More than You Think I think that there's been more engagement by the TMF in NFV than you might think.  In CloudNFV, a project of six vendors and two integration partners that's applied for a PoC approval by the ISG, TMF SID structures (Services and Resources, including the new Logical Resources) were a baseline in the data model.  The GB942 concept of mediating operations processes through contract data models is probably THE essential step in accommodating virtualization, and that mechanism was also incorporated in CloudNFV and is part of the PoC.  The NFV has liaison with the TMF, and I've presented details on suggested applications to and enhancements of the SID and eTOM processes to TMF leadership as well as to both vendor and carrier thought leaders in the TMF.

I'm a member of both the NFV ISG and the TMF, and I think the latter group can be of great value to the ISG effort because the ISG has defined its scope to be the virtualization of functions.  There is a much larger as-a-service and cloud trend that should be fully harmonized with NFV activities to reap the full benefits of NFV in operations and service agility.  The TMF has a broad enough scope to address all the pieces.

I'd like to see NFV PoCs and TMF Catalyst demos somehow combine where the two groups have symbiotic needs.  They did have a joint meeting in California yesterday too, I believe.
DOShea 10/29/2013 | 10:05:19 AM
Re: Major meeting with NFV ISG today Regarding your example with the legacy tools initially being used in cloud, that sounds like something that could drive more acquisitions of the SDN and NFV start-ups by larger vendors.
C Chappell 10/29/2013 | 8:59:13 AM
Re: Major meeting with NFV ISG today I have observed very little meeting of minds so far between those vendors that can 'talk' cloud management and traditional OSS vendors, so I look forward to reading your show reports, Carol. Some vendors are trying to bridge the gap between the worlds of physical network management and NFV management and orchestration by looking at new roles for legacy OSS but I'm sceptical. The analogy for me is with first generation enterprise cloud. Major vendors and operators tried to build it on existing IT management tools and have now abandoned the attempt - the latest example being IBM which bought Softlayer for its embedded orchestration and management - an admission that its Tivoli-based Enterprise SmartCloud wasn't driving the efficiencies and flexibility the cloud world needs. I think the same will happen with NFV - legacy tools will stay in place for a long time to manage existing physical networks, which won't be going away, but new management and orchestration platforms will be needed alongside them for virtual network function management.
Sarah Thomas 10/28/2013 | 10:53:40 PM
Re: Major meeting with NFV ISG today I'm curious about that too. The May show had very little focus on NFV and SDN, but Keith Willett said the TM Forum "underplayed their hand there" and should've devoted half a day to it. I think we'll see much more than half a day here.

Keith also said that the Forum is focused on different aspects than ETSI, which focuses on the network leve, and he was skeptical of the OSS Consortium that ALU, Ericsson, Huawei and others formed (without the Forum) in May. I'll be curious to hear some updates on that.
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