The group of vendors that have come together under the moniker CloudNFV is turning its ideas about the operations and management of network functions virtualization (NFV) into deployable products much faster than expected in response to the needs of many of the dozen network operators that have seen CloudNFV demos, says the group's founder.
Veteran industry analyst Tom Nolle, president of CIMI Corp. and chief architect of the CloudNFV initiative, tells Light Reading that the group's "science project," which started as a potential proof of concept for the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) NFV Industry Specifications Group (ISG), is being rapidly "productized" and should pop up in network operator labs in 2014. The initial products will take the form of component parts of an approach to managing virtualized functions alongside non-virtualized network functions and fitting the entire process into existing OSS/BSS architectures. (See Answering the NFV Management Challenge.)
"We had truthfully not thought about how we would sell it," says Nolle. But in meetings with operators, such as one held in Bad Homburg, Germany, in mid-October, the conversations moved very quickly from how CloudNFV's proposals were designed to how they could be implemented.
CloudNFV is a group of seven companies brought together by Nolle because they shared the view that virtualizing functions wasn't enough, believing that those functions should be incorporated into a private cloud environment. The group coalesced in mid-2013, unveiled itself in July and staged its first demo in October, a cloud-based implementation of IP Multimedia Subsystem. (See New Group Ties NFV to the Cloud.)
Nolle says the group is in "detailed discussions" with two Tier 1 network operators about "exploiting CloudNFV architecture and technology directly in their networks," and is talking to others about lab trials in the coming year. By January, the CloudNFV group will unveil the four "core operations interface modules" that will enable CloudNFV's architecture to be deployed and to be integrated into existing OSS/BSS.
Nolle notes that the network operators are clear that they are aiming to reduce operating costs, as well as improve flexibility, by deploying virtualized assets and are not targeting capex reductions: That echoes comments made in public forums earlier this year. But opex savings means integration of virtualized functions with existing operating systems and networks, since it will be a long time before everything is virtualized. (See Carriers Say SDN Won't Save Capex.)
"They wanted integration not just into their OSS and BSS but also their order management and service management practices," Nolle says. CloudNFV was already a "super set" of the ETSI group's definition of NFV, because it include end-to-end recognition and integration with legacy components, Nolle adds, and those weren't mandates for the ISG. But operators wanted even more than what the CloudNFV group had planned to deliver and those additional capabilities are being created in the four integration components being launched in January.
The four components include: a node builder, since CloudNFV considers each individual function to be a node; a service builder, which can take the nodes and create retail functions from them; a deployment manager; and a service operations manager (more on all of this to come in future articles).
With these four requirements, the basic CloudNFV architecture can be linked into real network operations, Nolle says. (You can read more about that architecture here).
The next step is to take these new developments back to operators and get their feedback, since the changes were made at their behest, he adds.
CloudNFV will continue to work with existing groups such as the ISG, and with the TM Forum : In fact it has issued a call for collaboration and sponsorship to the NFV ISG for participation in one or more of its proofs of concept and is proposing more than a dozen specific points of validation and augmentation areas based on its current work, Nolle says. The group is also reviewing an application to the TMF for a Catalyst demonstration at its event in Nice next June. (See TM Forum Sees Catalyst Role in NFV .)
— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading