ADVA's Ensemble unit is capitalizing on its early entry into the MANO market to announce a major new release of its NFV platform which it says enables secure deployment of new services and features such as zero-touch provisioning, software management and service chain monitoring, at scale, as well as facilitating universal CPE and easier rollout of SD-WANs. (See ADVA Beefs Up Ensemble MANO Suite.)
Or as Ensemble CTO Prayson Pate puts it, "We're putting the 'M' in MANO."
Drawing on its experience working with customers such as Masergy, Colt and Verizon, the new ADVA Optical Networking Ensemble platform is an upgrade of the entire suite, including Ensemble Orchestrator, Ensemble Director, Ensemble Connector. It is intended to both reduce complexity of MANO -- management, administration and network orchestration -- and enable the services network operators were seeking from network functions virtualization, Pate says. (See ADVA Stuffs a Cloud Into Verizon's uCPE and ADVA: Operators Key to Multivendor Virtualization.)
"Having gotten through the technical issues and the commercial issues, now people are asking, 'Can we actually roll this out at scale? Can we turn up and manage services based on virtualized components? What additional value can we give to end users?' " he says in an interview. "Because in truth, they don't really care about NFV, but they do care about things like services on demand and being able to turn up sites much quicker."
Among the many new features are distinct design and deployment phases for Zero-touch provisioning within Ensemble Director, so that operators can start quickly with pre-packaged designs or use Ensemble to create their own custom designs, with the complexity of integration into higher level support systems or portals abstracted, Pate says. Then in deployment, less specialized staff get a simpler framework for every-day use, so to speak. As new virtual network functions are onboarded, those are done in the design phase, separate of the deployment process, he adds.
What all that enables is the ability to ship commercial off-the-shelf hardware and be able to turn it up remotely, without sending a technician to the site, Pate explains.
"This reflects our experience in the field as well as maturation of our products," he comments. "So early on [design and deployment were] not as clearly delineated because we didn't, as an industry and as a supplier, completely know what things people are going to need to do once and what things were being done all the time," he says. "So as we matured these products, we realized it was important to make this separation."
Ensemble Director also provides performance management visibility of virtual services for service assurance and troubleshooting purposes, with real-time packet views.
"We've started to spend a lot more time on managing the service chain and performance metrics, and being able to diagnose the service chain," Pate explains. "Our Director product sits parallel to the orchestrator, and is really looking at some of the operational aspects like faults and performance, and being able to look at counters on a service chain. This is our first functional implementation that gives the operator a lot of capabilities. We're going to continue to develop this, including more analytics."
To better enable reliable management of the NFV-Infrastructure and network operating system, Ensemble Connector incorporates standard telco practices of handling software upgrades using dual configuration and OS partitions, with patching and maintenance being done to the "active," while the standby system remains unchanged in case there is a problem, he says.
"All those maintenance capabilities that the operators are used to having in their standard network equipment, we're now applying to these virtualized platforms, so that they can get the benefits of an open programmable interface, and yet still have the telecom resiliency that they're used to," Pate comments.
There is multi-layer security baked into the system in recognition that, in the virtual world, there is no such thing as protecting the perimeter of a network. At each layer -- application, management, virtualization, network and physical -- ADVA has implemented specific security steps, he says.
"We are applying the appropriate security measures at every layer," Pate says. "That's not just from us trying to be good security citizens, it's also because our customers have become much more sophisticated about the questions they ask and the reports they're expecting."
Both uCPE and software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN) are early use cases for the Ensemble suite that ADVA's customers are seeking -- Masergy, Verizon, and Colt are all deploying in this space. In the case of SD-WAN, ADVA doesn't provide the capability but does enable whatever SD-WAN vendor an operator chooses to roll out a virtual version, most often with a firewall as part of what Pate terms "Smart SD-WAN."
One advantage to this approach for operators is that it helps them get around the lack of compatibility within the SD-WAN community, and deploy the software that is the customer's preference, he says. "It doesn't solve the problem of SD-WAN compatibility but it does give operators more flexibility in deployment."
Pate sees Ensemble in its newest version as a better option for smaller operators -- the Tier 2s, for instance -- who unlike their larger brethren haven't been developing their own systems and have largely found open source systems difficult to adopt in one giant gulp.
On the open front, ADVA is seeing more operators incorporating pieces of open source software such as that developed by ONAP, he adds, and then still looking for commercial orchestration help.
— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading