NFV Strategies

ETSI Group to Tackle Thorny Operations Issues

In its next work phase, the influential NFV group within ETSI will tackle some thorny issues, including defining key interface specs for different vendor gear to interoperate, and determining how future virtualized networks will interact with legacy operations and billing support systems.

Those issues are among the key goals outlined in a white paper released today by 30 of the network operators involved in the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) NFV ISG, which launched the entire network functions virtualization movement within telecom carriers two years ago. (See Operators Set Course for NFV's Future and Carriers Collaborate on Network of the Future.)

The operators ultimately envision a "telecommunications cloud" that combines aspects of NFV and SDN in a flexible "cloud of clouds" environment. It will be built on a stacked architecture that will encompass different network orchestrators, cloud operating systems and hypervisors, and will be highly dynamic in its ability to scale automatically in support of applications and in the way it allocates resources.

The white paper, which is available here, is intended to provide the operators' perspective on the ETSI NFV ISG's work thus far and what they see as the major themes for the group's continued work. Drafts of what the ETSI NFV ISG has planned are already available on its website and specifics will be finalized in November at its plenary session in Arizona.

By continuing to weigh in as a group of operators, however, the 30 companies involved in this white paper are keeping the NFV focus sharply on the practical aspects of bringing virtualization to today's networks, and solving their real-world problems sooner rather than later. These include the need to bring services to market more quickly, to more efficiently use precious network resources and to automate back-end processes.

Need to know more about the management of network assets and applications in an SDN and NFV environment? Then check out the agenda for OSS in the Era of SDN & NFV: Evolution vs Revolution, November 5, at the Thistle Marble Arch Hotel, London

The paper identifies interoperability, support for layered architectures, interaction with legacy OSS/BSS and definition of new service models and how they will streamline operations processes as top priorities for the next round of work.

It goes on to provide an overview of the key documents that the ETSI NFV ISG will release in January, including those that address: NFV Infrastructure and its components; Management and Orchestration, commonly known as MANO; Software Architecture; Reliability and Availability, Performance and Portability and Security.

Interoperability is a key aspect of NFV, the white paper notes, to encourage a multi-vendor environment to develop. Achieving interoperability will require the ETSI NFV ISG to establish well-defined interfaces between the key components of the NFV ecosystem, to include:

  • Orchestrator and Virtual Infrastructure Manager (VIM)
  • Orchestrator and the Virtual Network Function Manager (VNFM)
  • VNFM and Virtual Network Function (VNF)
  • VNF and Network Functions Virtualization Infrastructure (NFVI).

A layered architecture becomes important so that NFV can support a hierarchy of orchestrators, operating independently in support of service deployments set up for multi-tenant use, such as cloud services. The ETSI NFV ISG needs to analyze and then clearly state how these orchestrators need to interact.

A substantial portion of the white paper was devoted to operational issues, signifying how these remain both important and tricky for NFV going forward, even as the operators acknowledged that some of this work remains outside the scope of the ETSI NFV ISG. There needs to be clear definition of how NFV infrastructure interacts with legacy OSS/BSS and how those systems need to evolve to support virtualized networks, the white paper notes.

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

cnwedit 10/16/2014 | 9:02:33 AM
Re: Sounds like this is years away Seven,

Good point. Those discussions are just starting although I think the folks involved in planning all of this are painfully aware that the business models are changing dramatically along with the technology and that means new ways of looking at billing as well. 

brooks7 10/16/2014 | 12:50:32 AM
Re: Sounds like this is years away Carol,

I always come back to the simple stuff.  I find that billing is going to be interesting.  If I look at Amazon, I essentially rent computer time.  I used to use virtualized load balancers that I had to buy a license for each instance that I had.

Have you talked to vendors and carriers about licensing and pricing models for the virtual functions?


cnwedit 10/15/2014 | 3:40:45 PM
Re: Sounds like this is years away I think there are still a ton of unanswered questions around the interaction of a virtualized network infrastructure with legacy OSS/BSS - but none of the larger SPs that I have interviewed have shown much interest at all in creating a new operations infrastructure for their new networks. So some accommodation of the existing support structure will be required. 

RitchBlasi 10/15/2014 | 3:06:19 PM
Sounds like this is years away Understanding the varying layers of the network and its interaction with other piece parts this almost makes it sound like the carriers are hell bent on keeping their existing OSS/BSS platforms and use NFV to manipulate all the stuff that they do.  Even though when I retired from AT&T - the last three years working with its network and technology groups - I knew enough to be dangerous, seems like if you virtualize the traditional OSS/BSS system a lot of what is promised through NFV can be attained today.  I guess since Amdocs is the 2000 pound gorilla in that area with carriers, the conservative nature of engineers feel frightened to think out-of-the-box and go outside the existing supply chain.

Again, I am not an expert here, just know enough to still be dangerous.  :-) 
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