Earlier this month, I was invited to speak at the NFV World Congress in San Jose, attended by about 1,000 people. Although this is a relatively small group compared to the likes of Mobile World Congress, it was a very well-targeted group of thought leaders and industry influencers who are working specifically on SDN and NFV in the carrier space. Thought leaders from leading service providers, vendors, industry groups and analysts shared their opinions and research on this market. My talk – Ensuring Availability and Resiliency in NFV” – focused on how to seamlessly bring resiliency and reliability to NFV in a KVM / OpenStack environment.

There was a significant amount of debate and discussion at the event. Rather than covering all of the topics that were discussed, I will summarize my top takeaways in a two part blog series. In this blog, I will talk about how:

  1. The first release of Open Source NFV, OPNFV, is around the corner.
  2. The culture of carriers is starting to change
  3. Approved industry PoCs continue to be important

 1.  The first release of Open Source NFV, OPNFV, is just around the corner

Seven months ago, the Linux Foundation founded OPNFV (Open Platform for NFV Project Inc.) with the goal of delivering a carrier-grade open source hardware-agnostic platform architecture with software that can run in different environments to speed up NFV deployments. We learned that Release 1 of the OPNFV platform, dubbed “Arno,” includes OpenStack, the KVM open source hypervisor, OpenDaylight and Open vSwitch, and will be released “later in the spring”, according to OPNFV director Heather Kirksey. I asked how the organization was making sure commitments were being kept by volunteers who generally have other full-time jobs. The answer is essentially peer pressure, respect and the need to build one’s reputation and earn trust from their peers. In addition to Arno, OPNFV has more than ten projects in the pipeline, with names such as: “Doctor” for fault management and “Availability” for High Availability for OPNFV.

2.  The culture of the carriers is starting to change

It used to be that carriers such as AT&T would only do business with large vendors such as Cisco and Alcatel-Lucent and would only deploy technologies that were “proven”. While carrier-grade reliability and resiliency are still important, carriers are starting to become more innovative and therefore more willing to work with non-traditional technologies and vendors.

Margaret Chiosi, distinguished network architect at AT&T Labs, shared her insights during her talk on Wednesday.

She laid out a network architecture model based on Linux, OPNFV, ETSI ISG NFV, OpenStack, KVM, OVS (Open source vSwitch), DPDK (data plane dev kit) and multiple SDN controllers. Although AT&T is using the OpenDaylight SDN controller as a framework for their own global controller, they are also looking at other SDN controllers such as OpenContrail for Local Networks and ONOS for Nodal network Controllers. The objective of this model is to be able to move fast. This differs from the past where it might have taken years to get an idea from the architecture team and longer to implement. The new AT&T model is to produce code immediately by leveraging the community and making their extensions, find what’s not working, and make revisions quickly.

This approach was echoed by the other telcos, including Luigi Licciardi, a Telecom Italia vice president in charge of technology planning and standards. He said that, “Our world is a world that is based on old issues, so we have to renew our culture, in terms of developing, understanding, and using software in the proper way.”

3.  Approved industry PoCs continue to be important

At the end of 2014, there were 26 approved ETSI PoCs. By May 5, 2015 (the first day of the NFV World Congress), there were total of 35 approved PoCs (including one led by Stratus Technologies on “Availability Management with Fault Tolerance”). During the event, 23 of these PoCs were demonstrated. These PoCs gave a unique opportunity to gain first-hand knowledge and insight about this critical technology – and the current reality of that technology – in order to strengthen a telco’s strategic planning and decision-making and help them identify which NFV solutions may be viable in their networks. They were also a great way to “show and tell” and collaborate with other NFV players. Stratus’ PoC was designed to alleviate one of the main service provider concerns as they virtualize their networks. The availability management and stateful fault tolerance ETSI NFV PoC, sponsored by AT&T and NTT, demonstrated how to protect VNFs in a variety of availability modes including Fault Tolerant (FT), High Availability (HA), and General Availability (GA). We showed that VNFs can be seamlessly protected, without code change, by sitting in a VM running on a Fault Tolerant Software Infrastructure, on commodity hardware.

That’s it for Part 1. Keep an eye out for my final two take-aways in Part 2, coming soon. If you want to hear more about resiliency and reliability in NVF, sign up for an informational webinar with Stratus and TMCnet on May 26, 2015 at 2pm EDT.