NFV (Network Functions Virtualization) is Here, Are We Ready to Address the Deployment challenges?
Recently, I attended an NFV/Data center event hosted by LightReading in Santa Clara, CA. The primary focus of this event was NFV (Network Functions Virtualization). The discussion topics included: Service Providers point of view on NFV, what progress have made so far, what are the key deployment challenges that lie ahead, and a panel discussion around HW/SW requirements for various deployment approaches and migrations. The event was attended by service provider and network equipment manufacturer executives and professionals.
The discussion provided a realistic look at timelines for virtualization, including the security requirements and migration path from Telco data centers to a cloud-based environment.
Here are the key takeaways from the event:
NFV must be operationalized
- Everyone now believe and agree that NFV is real and here to stay. In order to roll-out NFV, networks have to be re-architected to do things differently. Operators are starting to automate the easy parts of their network but long road ahead.
Security is a key concern
- Palo Alto Networks suggested that security solutions have to fit in orchestration, and tie into existing solutions. They also mentioned that a centralized policy management platform is required for scaling. It must be also context aware and data sharable.
- A recent Palo Alto study suggests 95% of attacks logged against customers came from only ten applications, nine of which are commonly used and can’t be blocked. This is the reason why Telcos have to inspect traffic at a deeper level.
- Security needs to be virtual, segmented, and on-demand. Every panel and keynote address talked about security concerns. While SDN enables faster deployment, this design can also mean that if a criminal hacks into the network’s controller, they can take it over the entire data center. Segmentation is key for security, so that it’s not tied to a set of racks. Segmentation lets Telcos use policies to pick and choose which sets of traffic to scan through the firewall. Also, there’s a need for virtual security appliances.
Automation is MUST for cloud based deployment
- CenturyLink, Orange, and XO – all service providers – put lot of stress on need for automation.
- CenturyLink VP said, “If you are on a nine-month release strategy, your network isn’t really programmable.” He also stated, “Programmable + Automation equals self service.”
There was clear consciousness that NFV is already here, but far from mainstream
- Telcos have started doing proof-of-concept trials for NFV, but rejected claims that all Telco services should be migrated to an NFV-based platform by 2020. It seemed a bit of an aggressive target.
- This transition is going through many challenges, and they have to breakdown their organizational silos and adapting it to their business models
NFV, SDN, and cloud deployments are inextricable
- Operators are planning for SDN, NFV, and the cloud at the same time. They will complement each other, rather than heading for collision. They can be done separately, but work best together. Everyone agreed that SDN helps make NFV possible
Complexity should be tackled in the service layer
- Christopher Liljenstolpe from Metaswitch said, “If we do trade off complex hardware to complex software, we have really done nothing to get us down the road of what NFV is supposed to deliver.”
- He said, “The complexity must be dealt with at the service layer. The simplicity is needed in service infrastructure.”
From all this, one thing stands out very clear: thorough testing is required to ensure the NFV-based deployments can meet or exceed performance, offer high security, and provide high scalability without any compromise.
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