How Carriers Build an NFVi to Support Network Transformation
Carrier network transformation has become a popular topic in the industry over the past few years. Factors such as increasing service traffic, changing market trends and the acceleration of 5G development put forward new requirements for network infrastructure re-construction, making transformation a must. New technologies -- including virtualization, cloud computing and SDN -- are making this transformation possible.
Since the emergence of NFV, it has been rapidly implemented over the last few years thanks to the participation and promotion of many carriers and vendors. It is widely regarded as the basis for deploying new services in the future, such as 5G network services. NFV decouples the network infrastructure -- NFV infrastructure combined with virtual infrastructure manager (VIM), referred to here as NFVi), VNFs and MANO into different layers, making an open, flexible and automated network architecture possible and providing a basis for carrier network transformation and service innovation.
Key requirements for NFVI to support the commercial use of NFV
Telecom carriers have been providing secure, reliable network services to ensure an optimal user experience for a long time, and are responsible for the critical informatization infrastructure that supports stable social and economic operations.
In the NFV era, however, network services are migrated to the NFVi composed of COTS hardware and open-source software. Can the NFVi capabilities -- such as performance, reliability and security -- meet telecom service requirements? Will user experience deteriorate due to risks introduced by innovative technologies? The answers to these questions determine whether or not NFV can be commercially applied.
Driven by market competition and innovative technologies, carrier network transformation and innovation is a continuous process over a long time. It could even be considered a "new normal" for carriers. In this context, new technical requirements for NFVi will continuously develop. In other words, service development will also drive NFVi development.
NFVi planners and designers are faced with the following question: What NFVi architecture is flexible enough to continuously meet service requirements? For example, can the NFVi constructed for 4G networks meet 5G service requirements? The answer to this question determines whether or not the NFVi can help carriers achieve their strategic goals for network transformation, and whether carriers can avoid the technical risks and wasted investment caused by planning issues.
Highly open technological systems and architectures are essential for NFVi. Only an open NFVi can effectively improve the diversity of the network services and vendor ecosystem in order to maximize profits from the network transformation.
However, NFV-related technical specifications have not been completely standardized so far. For example, the standard is not formally defined for the northbound interconnection between the NFVi and VNF/MANO. Currently, only the OpenStack API is introduced as a de-facto standard. This is likely to lead to risks in delivering projects with multi-vendor products and solutions, hindering the commercial use of NFV networks.
Carriers' concerns during NFVi construction
Since Moore's Law is running out of steam, it is not sustainable to rely on the performance improvement of general-purpose processors to continuously improve forwarding performance. SR-IoV, a hardware virtualization technology, provides an alternative to solve this problem. From a long-term perspective, software-virtualization and hardware-virtualization forwarding technologies will coexist for a long time in the NFV field, and play important roles in different service scenarios.
To be specific, the reliability of each component in the data, control, management and O&M planes in the NFVI should be hardened. Techniques, such as second-level alarms, automatic fault rectification on control components and VMs, automatic backup of service data and data center (DC)-level local and remote disaster recovery, should be used to fully ensure system reliability.
To overcome these challenges, an automated upgrade process management system needs to be added to the NFVi lifecycle management system, so that the sequence of service migration and node upgrades can be orchestrated in a programmed and automated way, which not only accelerates the upgrade process and lowers the upgrade risks, but also reduces the workload of the O&M team.
The basis of carrier networks will transform from telecom equipment rooms to distributed, multi-level data centers. Data centers (DCs) of different scales and levels are distributed in different geographical locations and provide different types of cloud resource pools, supporting distributed deployment and wide-area coverage of different services. The network access delay is different for each different level of these DCs. Since service delay on future 5G networks must be reduced to milliseconds, a large number of small-scale edge sites are required at the edge of NFVi-based networks. Therefore, NFVi must be able to host multi-level DCs and edge sites on the same network and centrally manage them.
Meanwhile, diversified services require diversified resource types. Therefore, the NFVi must allow the use of heterogeneous computing, storage and network resources. With regards to computing, for example, VMs are required as basic computing resources and bare metal resources are required to support some performance-sensitive services. In addition to common x86 processors, high-performance heterogeneous computing resources (such as FPGA) are needed for computing-intensive services. Additionally, the NFVi must be able to integrate with an upper-layer container cluster management platform to support container-based services, such as agile 5G core network functions. However, the NFVi should remain decoupled from the platform and even the PaaS layer, preventing the NFVi architecture from becoming too complex and affecting NFVi transition and flexibility.
To address the conflict between NFVi openness and delivery risks during a project delivery phase, carriers can closely collaborate with the top vendors in the NFVI industry to jointly verify the interconnection between mainstream NFVI solutions and each vendor's components (such as VNF and MANO) in major commercial scenarios, and formulate technical specifications. At the same time, carriers should consider vendors' end-to-end solution delivery capabilities to ensure quick delivery and after-sales services.
What kind of cloud data center will be able to meet the network and service requirements of 5G? The answer is simple.
A unified cloud infrastructure will help carriers transition to 5G while also enabling faster virtualization in networks.
Huawei's all-in on cloud to enable carriers' digital transformations.
Huawei released its NFV/SDN commercial deployment numbers at this week's 2017 SDN NFV World Congress.
On-the-Air Thursdays Digital Audio
ARCHIVED | December 7, 2017, 12pm EST
Orange has been one of the leading proponents of SDN and NFV. In this Telco Transformation radio show, Orange's John Isch provides some perspective on his company's NFV/SDN journey.
Special Huawei Video
Huawei Network Transformation Seminar The adoption of virtualization technology and cloud architectures by telecom network operators is now well underway but there is still a long way to go before the transition to an era of Network Functions Cloudification (NFC) is complete.
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