Real-World NFV, Real Lessons Learned

Jul 08, 2015
what have you learned

Masergy and Overture recently announced the first true deployment of pure-play virtualization at the service edge. Getting there took some time and effort, and we learned a lot along the way. Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing details of the lessons we learned on the road to real-world NFV deployment. In the meantime, here’s a brief overview of the most important of those lessons.

Deployment of NFV Is Driven by Service Agility
Everyone talks about CapEx and OpEx savings from NFV, but the real value is in service agility and innovation. Once an operator invests in NFV it will be able to quickly create and deploy new services — all without changing the hardware in the network. Tim Naramore, CTO of Masergy, said the following about the rationale and benefits for his company’s newly launched Virtual f(n)TM service:

"Our primary focus is on service agility and our pure-play NFV deployment sets the stage for immediate response to customer requests," said Tim Naramore, Masergy's chief technology officer. "Masergy has long been an innovator, providing our customers with solutions that give them real-time control and the ability to get the services they need, when they want them. With this launch, we're adding incredibly agile and flexible solutions to our Managed Network f(n)™ family of distributed, fully managed network functions."

NFV Must be Open, High Performance and Flexible
Tim mentions pure-play NFV, which means that the solution can no longer tied to proprietary hardware platforms. Pure-play NFV is the hosting of software Virtual Network Functions (VNFs) on standard “white box” servers. Pure-play is important because it allows the service provider the flexibility to choose software VNFs from best-of-breed vendors.

Masergy understands the need for open, high performance solutions to realize the full benefit of NFV;

Overture's open approach lets Masergy add whatever VMs it chooses going forward. "Some of the larger vendors can give us whatever we need, but you have to buy it all from them," he says, without naming names.

"We were able to get line-rate throughput with multiple VMs, which was far ahead of any of their competition, and that was critical for us," Naramore says.

Pure-play also allows service providers to easily add, change, or remove virtual functions without the expense of adding, moving or replacing hardware. Service providers are willing to make an investment in NFV infrastructure today, and they expect to be able to load additional and/or different VNFs in the future, even though they might not even know what those VNFs are today. That means that the solution must adhere to standards, and must provide adequate performance to meet unknown future demands.

The pure-play NFV approach contrasts with the hybrid approach, where a purpose-built EAD or NID is augmented with a compute module for hosting VNFs. While this approach provides some of the benefits of NFV, deployments are limited to where the hybrid device can reside, and to the capacities of the compute node in the hybrid device. With pure-play, a service provider can pick the appropriate white box server for the application, specifying the processor, memory, storage and interfaces as needed.

NFV Needs to Cost In, and This Means Flexibility in Licensing
The benefits of pure-play agility are compelling. Even so, service providers expect an NFV-based service to be similar or lower in cost than a service based on dedicated hardware appliances. As it turns out, the cost advantage of NFV gets better with each additional VNF that is added to the service. This means that achieving a cost advantage in a centralized cloud is straightforward due to the common point of hosting for multiple customers and services. However, at the edge of the network, this cost comparison gets more difficult for NFV, because a service provider may want to start with only one or two VNFs. The suppliers of the hosting server, the VNF suppliers and the service provider must show flexibility and adaptability to come up with a pricing model that works for all parties. This was one of the hardest parts of costing-in Masergy’s Virtual f(n)TM service.

Service Providers and Suppliers Must Work as Partners to Drive Innovation
Masergy and Overture were perfect partners for the first pure-play NFV deployment for two main reasons: innovation and partnership:

Innovation. Masergy has been and continues to be an innovator, both in the communications services offered as well as in the customer empowerment it provides. Masergy has provided customer portals and smartphone apps to enable customer monitoring of their service. With the new Virtual f(n) TM service, Masergy has extended that control to the services themselves. Overture has a history of bringing innovative solutions to the industry and has been at the forefront of the NFV transformation. . With such a strong commitment to innovation, both companies were easily aligned in what needed to happen to make this deployment a reality.

Partnership. In driving innovative services, Masergy has asked a lot of suppliers like Overture, Brocade and Fortinet. However, Masergy also gives a lot in terms of guidance and support. You know that Tim and the Masergy team will work with you to bring new features and products into service. In fact, Masergy and Overture have long participated in a simplified form of Agile development to ensure that features meet the requirements of the service. This type of cooperation is essential for success in the world of virtualized services.

Learning from the Real World
The beauty of learning from a real-world deployment is that while the lessons smack you hard, they are valuable and they stick. Stay tuned for more on what we learned.

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Originally Posted on:  LinkedIn

Real-World NFV, Real Lessons Learned was last modified: July 24th, 2015 by Prayson Pate

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