‘Virtualization Must-Haves’

greg nehibNetwork functions virtualization (NFV) and software defined networking (SDN) will get a lot of interest this year at BBF2014 as carriers seek to make networks more agile and efficient. In talking to both service providers and large enterprises, it’s clear that we are already in another major transition in the networking industry.

I’ve spoken with many talented individuals about what NFV and SDN means to their networks.  Some of these visions are very broad and long ranging and some are more narrowly focused on delivering or optimizing a single service very quickly.  It’s clear that NFV has already been deployed in many different service applications while SDN has been noticeably slower to develop a focused following.  Even in the case of virtualized network functions (VNFs), there is an interesting combination of features focused on services delivery and features focused on infrastructure innovation.  In this case “services” are typically the services that carriers sell to their end customers such as a VPN and “infrastructure” is the virtualization of the typical network functions such as a virtualized route reflector on an x86 based server instead of running the route reflector application in an existing (physical) router.

These NFV implementations have had a greater near term impact because they are quicker to deploy and have an arguably more immediate business impact.  If you think about SDN, it’s an efficient way of managing large mixed networks and orchestrating NFV.  SDN is a much different task once you add the clause about mixed networks and once you consider the operational impacts of network wide orchestration capabilities.  Mixed networks in this context could mean deploying virtualization across multiple market segments like virtualized mobility, virtualized video, and virtualized network assets.  It could also apply to multi-layer services and multi-vendor deployments.  Anytime we discuss multi-layer convergence I see people start to squirm in their seats.  Making service delivery work across multivendor environments is even more complicated, but within this network evolution Multi-layer and multi-vendor are absolutely required. Helping to solve this mixed network management with orchestration is what makes the promise of SDN so powerful.

I’ve built a list of “Virtualization Must-Haves” to consider as we approach BBWF14.

Virtualization Requirements:

  1. Self Service Portal for End User Service Creation & Modification
  2. Open Multi-Vendor and Multi-Layer Provisioning and Management
  3. Fully Automated and Orchestrated Service Delivery for OPEX reduction
  4. Service and Infrastructure VNFs
  5. Service Chaining across multiple VNFs
  6. Flexible Consumption/Deployment Options which include:
    1. Individual VNFs
    2. VNFs plus SDN Orchestration
    3. Fully Integrated Solutions with SDN Orchestration, Equipment and Deployment Services
    4. As-a-Service Delivery Model

That’s a quick list and I would guess that other than As-a-Service options, the rest of this is somewhat expected, sometimes overlooked, yet well understood.  As-a-Service options are well understood too.  I have seen more Service Provider interest in As-a-Service options in the past 12 months.  Much of this is due to either the desire to trial a new service with a lower first cost, or increased service velocity in competitive environments.  As-a-Service options are also attractive when trying to compete outside your typical service geography, or in other words to meet high priority customer requirements for a global service in regions that you don’t normally have network assets deployed.

BBWF 2014 should be a great event.  I’m looking forward to the Keynotes, the Debates and the innovation that will be displayed in the Exhibition.  With so much to absorb in such a short timeframe it’s important to know what you want to see before you go!

This is a guest post from Greg Nehib, Sr. Product Manager, Cisco

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