Category Archives: NFV

One Open Source To Orchestrate Them All

First the change happened in Information Technology (IT): moving from hardware to software; virtualization inspired by cloud computing; data centers becoming configurable and programmable as software using DevOps approach; traditional vendor-locked solutions superseded by new world open source initiatives such as OpenStack, Open Compute Project and Cloud Native Computing Foundation.

Then Communications Technology (CT) followed the lead, making its move into the new world with notions such as software defined networking (SDN), network functions virtualization (NFV) and central office re-architected as a data center (CORD). Inevitably open source took a lead role here as well, with a multitude of projects popping up, led by different industry forces.

LinuxFoundationNetworkingAndOrchestrationIn fact, too many project, which left the Telecom industry perplexed and unable to converge under one de-facto standard. Have you tried to orchestrate with each player requiring a different sign language from the maestro?

But then came the twist in the plot when the Chinese and Americans decided to join forces: ECOMP (Enhanced Control, Orchestration, Management and Policy) that was open sourced by AT&T, and Open-O (Open Orchestrator) project led primarily by China Mobile, China Telecom and Huawei, have decided to join forces under the Linux Foundation’s umbrella, to create Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP).

What shape will the merged project take? That is yet to be decided by the community. This topic was much discussed February at the announcement on Mobile World Congress and even more so during Open Networking Summit this month, but still more questions than answers for ONAP, around modeling, protocols, descriptors, architecture…

The most important question, however, is whether the new merged mega-project will bear the critical mass required to gravitate the industry towards it, to become the converging force, the de-facto standard. Seeing the forces behind ECOMP, OPEN-O and now ONAP, including Intel, IBM, Cisco, Nokia and others, it looks promising. And the Linux Foundation is a proven vehicle for widely adopted open source projects. If succeed, this may very well be the turning point, taking the NFV & SDN wagon out of the mud and unto the fast track to production.

*Disclaimer: The writer has been working on the orchestration initiatives of ONAP members Amdocs and GigaSpaces.

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Filed under Cloud, DevOps, NFV, SDN, Telecommunications

Programmable Networks – Is The Dream Finally Coming True?

One of the hottest trends in the Telecommunications industry is Software Defined Networking (SDN), the idea that you can control the logic of the data flow dynamically using central programmable logic, instead of having it hard-coded into every individual networking “box”.

Stanford Prof. Nick McKeown, one of the guys who invented SDN, and a serial entrepreneur in networking technology startups, now brings the next transformation: programmable switching chips. While in today’s networks special-purpose chips are used which are hard-wired to run specific protocols, the new switch chips can be programmed so that they could perform different functions such as firewall and load balancing, which currently require specialized networking equipment.

McKeown’s new startup Barefoot Network just completed its series C funding round with $57 million from Google (Alphabet) and Goldman Sachs. Google’s interest isn’t surprising as Google has been exploring next-generation networking for a while, and even earlier this year joined the Open Compute Project (in which Goldman Sachs is also a member).

The chips will be programmed by P4, a language for protocol-independent data packet forwarding. P4 is backed by a large open consortium of industry leaders, including tier-1 Telcos AT&T and Huawei, leading manufacturers such as Intel, Cisco and Juniper, and even software giant Microsoft. Reportedly the new chip can reach up to up to 6.5Tbps (terabits per second)—double the speed of the fastest comparable technology on the market, which is critical in making the new chips realistic for the high-performance standards of Telecom.

The vision of Software Defined Networking and that of programmable switching chips is basically one. As Barefoot puts it:

We envision a world where programmable networks outperform fixed-function networks. We believe that programming the network should be as easy to program as a server.

That’s a vision worth pursuing. And it may just about to come true.

You can read more on the latest announcement on this comprehensive coverage by the Wall Street Journal.

For a more technical deep-dive, download Barefoot’s whitepaper here.

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Filed under NFV, Programming Languages, SDN, Telecommunications

Virtual networking picks up at OpenStack

Virtual networking was a key theme at this week’s OpenStack Summit in Paris. We saw keynotes addressing it, panels with leading Telco experts on it, and dedicated sessions on emerging open standards such as OpenNFV.

Telco inherently posses more challenging environments and networking needs, with elaborate inter-connectivity and service chaining, which the Neutron project has not yet adequately addressed. We also see open standards emerging in the industry around SDN and NFV, most notably OpenDaylight, which OpenStack foundation still haven’t decided how to address in collaboration and complementary fashion. It would become even trickier in light of competing open standards such as the ON.Lab’s Open Network Operating System (ONOS) which was announced just this week.

This lack of standardization in SDN & NFV for OpenStack presents an opportunity for different vendors to offer an open source solution in attempt to take the lead in that area, similarly to the way Ceph took the lead and ultimately became the de-facto standard for OpenStack block storage. On this week’s summit we saw two announcements tackling this gap of SDN for OpenStack: both Akanda and Midokura announced their open source products in compatibility with OpenStack.

Midokura decided to open source it’s core asset MidoNet which provides Layer-2 overlay aiming to replace the default OVS plugin from OpenStack. Midokura is targeting OpenStack community, making its source code available as part of Ubuntu’s OpenStack Interoperability Lab (OIL). OpenStack is also clearly targeted in their announcement:

MidoNet is a highly distributed, de-centralized, multi-layer software-defined virtual network solution and the industry’s first truly open vendor-agnostic network virtualization solution available today for the OpenStack Community.

Akanda on the other hand was an open-source project from the beginning. Akanda focuses on Layer-3 virtual routing on top of VMware NSX’s Layer 2 overlay, with support for OpenDaylight and OpenStack. In fact Akanda is a sort of a spin-out of DreamHost, the company that spun-out Inktank and brought about Ceph (acquired by RedHat in April). Will they be able to achieve same success with Akanda in Networking as they did with Ceph in Storage?

Telco operators such as AT&T, Huawei and Vodafone are pushing the OpenStack Foundation and community to address the needs of the Telecommunications domain and industry. The OpenStack framework has reached enough maturity in its core projects and ecosystem to be able to address the more complex networking challenges and requirements. Backed by the network operators and network equipment providers (NEPs), and with the right collaboration with other open-source projects in the SDN and NFV domains, I expect it shall be on the right path to offer a leading virtualization platform for Telco and Enterprise alike.

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Filed under NFV, OpenStack, SDN