New NFV Forum Focused on Interoperability
Another industry group is to develop specifications for NFV, this time focusing on how software-controlled functions should be shared across network operators in an automated way, to enable new services.
Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions (ATIS) , a North American telecom standards group, today announced its NFV Forum, promising to work with other standards organizations in advancing goals set by its service provider members.
"We are all working at a high level on NFV," says Andrew White, vice president of technology and standards at ATIS. "Once you get into the details, it is very much a distributed software problem. ATIS is working on unique aspects of that."
Those unique aspects include inter-carrier interoperability and new service descriptions and automated processes, including APIs that will enable network operators to expose virtualized network functions to other operators and to enterprises in order to make new services possible.
White cites the example of mobile customers who roam onto another global wireless network provider -- in today's world, those customers are limited to voice, data and messaging services. But if virtualized functions such as firewalls can be shared across networks, roaming customers could choose to take a network security service with them, or choose it from the host carrier.
Among the goals of the new group -- the charter of which can be viewed here -- are to pull web-scale companies such as Google into the discussion along with the largest enterprises, to determine what capabilities they want to be able to extract from the network. ATIS is already trying to engage with web giants such as Google and Facebook as part of its Open Web Alliance. (See ATIS Works to Avert Web Control Battle.)
Tom Anderson, NFV Forum Chair, and principal engineer, Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) Mobility CTO, says the ATIS group is already working with key organizations involved in developing NFV, and is very aware of their work because of the shared membership. Specifically, the ATIS group has met informally with Steven Wright of AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), the new chair of the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) NFV Industry Specifications Group, which launched NFV a few short years ago. Because of the membership overlap, he envisages a self-regulated process to avoid duplication.
"We have done a landscape effort to sort out who is doing what in NFV and to see where the gaps are -- what we are doing is filling the gaps we saw," he notes. "NFV is a really big thing and pretty much people are doing a good job of working on different aspects, and then working together, which is pretty unusual in the standards domain."
The ATIS NFV Forum will build on work already done by other ATIS groups, including its Cloud Services Forum and the ATIS SDN/NFV Focus Group started earlier this year. The Cloud Services Forum produced a series of standards, including metadata for service descriptions, a lifecycle checklist, and requirements for interconnecting content delivery networks in a federated environment. The ATIS SDN/NFV Focus Group has been working on inter-provider service chaining and ways to maximize the business value of inter-provider NFV.
The NFV Forum is promising to deliver things such as priority use cases for NFV, and a common catalog of service descriptions that can be set up between service providers on an aggressive six-to-nine month schedule, White says. The group's priorities are built around business imperatives, he adds, such as defining how companies can find and incorporate NFV-based services into their own software environments and developing or defining service creation tools, all focused on new service and revenue creation.
All of that work will be public and will be fed into other open standards groups where appropriate, White says.
— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading