WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Oracle today is demonstrating new network orchestration capabilities that it says will enable network operators to get the same level of function-specific performance and throughput from NFV that they currently get from specialized telecom hardware. At its Oracle Industry Connect event here for customers and prospects, Oracle is showcasing the work it has done with Intel that can allow orchestration of services and network functions from the management layer down to the network processor layer, at scale. (See Oracle Claims First in End-to-End NFV Orchestration.)
Oracle Corp. (Nasdaq: ORCL) execs see this collaborative effort as a breakthrough that will not only pave the way for NFV deployment but also make it more likely that NFV can deliver on its promise of agile services. The company also thinks it demonstrates a maturity to its network orchestration capabilities that will set it apart in what is becoming a crucial and competitive field in the NFV space.
"This allows you, at time of orchestration, to be able to smartly identify pools of resources or resources that have unique aspects to them, in terms of maybe memory management, processor speeds, configuration of VMs [virtual machines], and these sorts of things, to be able to be optimized for a particular application that is part of that service to a customer," Barry Hill, global head of NFV, Oracle Communications, tells Light Reading in an interview.
Oracle worked with Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) and leveraged the Enhanced Performance Awareness contributions the latter made to the OpenStack cloud operating environment, which allow the matching of workload requirements to platform capabilities in the launch process of a VM. Building on Intel's Open Network Platform -- a high-performance server architecture running open source software -- Oracle used its Communications Network Service Orchestration Solution, launched in mid-February, to show it's possible to create carrier-grade services using NFV that are directly comparable to what specialized hardware produces. (See Oracle Orchestrates Carriers' NFV Moves.)
That's made possible by the way Intel has optimized its chip sets for network loads but also by Oracle software, which acts as a bridge, notes Susan McNeice, marketing director, thought leadership, at Oracle.
"We are setting up pools of processor capability and we are reaching right into the hardware, into the processors and saying 'We want this particular virtual machine to have these attributes,'" she explains. "It's like you are setting aside a piece of the platform and lining it all up and saying, 'I want this piece of the platform to have these attributes for as long as this virtual machine needs to run.' You can't always do that within body of an application, you have to be able to talk to the processor attributes."
Whatever the function is, notes Hill, the Oracle network orchestrator can instantiate, at the time of service build or creation, the most optimized infrastructure for each of the components that are part of the service chain. That moves NFV out of the realm of using specialized software that runs on generic hardware which delivers same performance to every function -- the equivalent, he says, to "everyone driving a Ford Taurus."
There has been skepticism within the industry that NFV-based services could perform at the same level as those based on specialized hardware, especially at scale, McNeice says. "There was always a little bit of this intellectual leap we had to make from driving a virtual machine from your orchestration stack into the VIM [virtual infrastructure manager] and into the hardware platform and then make it perform as though it were a proprietary piece of gear or appliance," she says.
Oracle considers this capability to be "table stakes" for a service orchestrator in the NFV realm, Hill says, adding, however, that there is more for orchestrators to do. "Any service orchestrator needs to have some key fundamentals -- it needs a very powerful visual design capability, a very powerful inventory because that is that is your shopping basket, with a common data model and service description language. And it needs to have very powerful activation capability, and not just activation but the ability to be able to receive information requests, events, etc."
Oracle is working with some carriers in their labs with this capability but it not yet able to discuss that publicly, Hill says. The company will be contributing some of what it developed back into the open source process with OpenStack and the Enhanced Platform Awareness piece, McNeice adds.
— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading