At ADVA Optical Networking, we talk about "Network Virtualization Simplified." We now have rich experience deploying network functions virtualization (NFV) into the field to deliver live services (i.e., the school of hard knocks). We are now applying those lessons to help our customers move from lab trials and POCs into production. However, not everyone has learned those lessons, and as a result, we have to work hard to make it easy! How can we as an industry make it easier for everyone? Here are some ideas:
Work in multi-vendor teams
Events such as the recent ETSI NFV Plugtests, the New IP Agency (NIA) management and orchestration (MANO) campaign and the Big Communications Event last year bring multiple suppliers together to demonstrate interoperability. The attendees gather at a common venue to make progress on interoperability. Success requires not only those on-site personnel but also supporting teams back home to answer questions and make code changes. As a result, these events are expensive, both in time as well as in money. Given that they are expensive, why participate?
The answer is that these events are invaluable because they expose areas where different implementations and interpretations cause issues. Once we get past these issues, we know what we need for the next step: realistic applications and test cases.
Progress requires focus
I was recently talking to a service provider who expressed frustration with the slowness of the ETSI NFV process, especially compared to the speed displayed by web-scale operators. Consensus and process are important, but we need to make progress more quickly! One way to do so is to focus your efforts. Don't boil the ocean. Pick a constrained area and make some progress.
For example, API specification and interop verification are more constrained than specifying an entire architecture. The result of the simplicity is we can make progress on test cases that help operators ensure proper operation of multi-vendor systems. And multi-vendor is one of the main selling points of NFV.
The role of the New IP Agency
The NIA was formed to help drive interoperability and deployability for NFV, including virtual network functions, NFV infrastructure as well as MANO implementations. Specifically, the NIA exists to provide independent industry testing, deliver information about service providers and suppliers and to facilitate cross-industry communication via both in-person events and online forums.
The NIA is turning its attention to help simplify multi-vendor NFV deployments through its specification, testing and interoperability efforts. We need your help! If you are a service provider, hardware or software supplier or integrator working with NFV, then you should look into becoming a member of the NIA and participating in this effort to make NFV a success.
— Prayson Pate, CTO, Ensemble, ADVA Optical Networking; Member, NIA Board of Directors