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NFV MANO Gets Ready for the Big Time

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Author: Les Stuart, Senior Director, NFV Product Management, Hewlett Packard Enterprise

Network functions virtualization (NFV) can deliver major benefits in speed, cost-efficiency, and innovation. But as a technology still in its relative infancy, it can also be complex, particularly for communications service providers (CSPs) trying to take advantage of NFV in carrier-grade environments. Onboarding and orchestrating new virtualized network functions (VNFs), especially from multiple vendors, can quickly turn to chaos.

The ETSI’s NFV Management and Orchestration (MANO) architecture was designed to create some core principles around how virtualized functions are managed in cloud data centers. In the long term, this MANO framework will serve as the cornerstone for fully standardized NFV architectures. Over the next few years, it will accelerate the global advance of NFV by making it easier to develop and quickly onboard interoperable virtualized solutions. But the devil is in the details, which are still working themselves out.

Right now, even within the ETSI MANO framework, there are a lot of options out there. That includes open-source projects like the Open Source MANO (OSM) Group led by the ETSI, the OPEN-Orchestrator (OPEN-O) project from the Linux Foundation, and others. Several Tier-1 service providers have also developed MANO solutions—some in collaboration with open-source communities (like the OpenMANO project led by Telefonica), some commercial. Leading IT vendors like HPE, as well as a growing number of software and virtualization vendors, also offer commercial MANO solutions.

How do you make sense of it all? Where do you start? 

Let’s Simplify: Open-Source or Vendor-Driven

Almost all MANO frameworks being discussed today follow the ETSI model, so we can break down the choices into two basic buckets: open-source and vendor-driven solutions. Both have their pros and cons.

Open-source inherently accelerates the development of new technologies and breeds innovation. This is the natural result of having thousands of smart engineers from all over the world, coming from different industries and viewpoints, working together to solve common problems. For this reason, HPE has been a major longtime backer of open-source initiatives, and we upstream much of our work in NFV (and many other areas) to open-source communities. But the reality is that many of our CSP customers have requirements that open-source solutions, on their own, can’t meet.

CSPs can’t deploy something in real-world production environments that isn’t well-supported. When implementing a complex solution with many moving parts, they need “one throat to choke” if any issues arise. Many CSPs (especially Tier-2/3 carriers) also don’t have the time or resources to devote to building up their own end-to-end NFV capabilities. Ideally, they want to work with one vendor that provides solutions and professional services to deploy, manage, and support NFV under a service-level agreement (SLA). Finally, CSPs need to retain complete control of their code, so that no third party can make a change somewhere that affects their customers.

For all these reasons, many Tier-1 CSPs, and a growing number of Tier-2/3 customers, are opting for commercial solutions.

Building Interoperability

It’s important to recognize that, when it comes to NFV MANO, commercial doesn’t mean closed off or locked in. Even among those CSP customers most emphatic about using a “productized” NFV solution, they still want standardization. They demand adherence to the ETSI MANO architecture. And they expect us to make it easier, not harder, for them to integrate with open-source NFV frameworks and third-party VNFs.

These requirements are baked into our OpenNFV architecture and ecosystem. We’re providing converged NFV systems that bring CSPs the benefits of faster deployment and unified support, while reducing complexity and risk. We’re drawing on our leadership in service provider and cloud infrastructure to provide an NFV platform that’s flexible, scalable, and aligns with carrier-grade requirements. We’re building an open NFV ecosystem to help CSPs onboard pre-integrated and validated VNFs from innovative third-party vendors across the industry. And we’re designing our NFV applications and orchestration software to run on any platform—including open-source platforms like OpenStack.

This mix of open interfaces with commercial-grade solutions isn’t necessarily the perfect fit for every NFV use case. But for our CSP customers, it’s driving faster development and integration cycles, more efficient operations, lower total cost of ownership, and more flexibility to continually innovate.

What’s Next?

In the coming months and years, expect more movement across the industry towards MANO standardization. That will mean more standardized interfaces between disparate open-source and commercial NFV initiatives. And it will mean more interoperability—and therefore, more freedom of choice—for all elements of NFV architectures. 

With strong commitments to openness and interoperability across both commercial and open-source solutions, expect to see many more customers deploying NFV, and some amazing innovation.

Learn More

To hear what experts across the industry are saying about NFV MANO, check out this Intel Network Builders hosted panel discussion: 

 

Follow us on Twitter at @HPE_NFV & @HPE_CSP

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