We don’t climb mountains, undertake quests, or send people to the moon because it’s easy. Smart people want to devise elegant solutions to hard problems. Like any world-class performer, they make the impossible seem possible and, dare I say, easy.
We aren’t tackling network virtualization because the network is “there.” We couldn’t galvanize a global industry without recognition of the once-in-a-generation opportunity this represents. There are very real business, technical and operational reasons to invest in network transformation.
Since ETSI outlined its initial Network Function Virtualization (NFV) project in 2012, the brightest minds in the industry have mobilized across standards bodies, open source initiatives and ecosystems to tackle the “Mount Everest” of the communication industry – network transformation. We are in the middle of this journey, and there’s more hard work ahead.
As we gather for the ONS North America, let’s look at our progress and consider a broader view of virtualization opportunities and approaches, including new open source initiatives that draw from successful cloud concepts.
NFV: Headed to the Edge
At the beginning of the journey, the network functions virtualization (NFV) movement drove the use standard high volume servers instead of purpose-built appliances. Since then, the network transformation has been progressing and continues unabated. Service providers worldwide have been rolling out new NFV-based services to deliver a more agile and flexible network.
We are now applying virtualization at the network edge with innovation around multi-access edge computing (MEC), virtualized radio access network (vRAN), cloud RAN and next generation central offices (NGCOs). In fact, virtualization has permeated beyond the edge into aggregation, access and on-premise platforms, such as the universal customer premise equipment (uCPE) and software defined wide area network (SD-WAN) applications.
Edge innovation makes perfect sense, because we must deliver flexibility and scale closer to the applications and use cases that are generating the demand, NFV, NFV infrastructure (NFVI) and SDN will be key to supporting the reliable deployment and flexible configuration of these new infrastructure and services.
We have made significant progress in transforming very complex, legacy networks, but there’s still a long way to go. As we look forward, it’s helpful to consider new frameworks and ideas that may accelerate our progress, including cloud, cloud native and DevOps.
Accelerating Progress: Communication, Cloud and Cloud Native
New architectures and methodologies move us closer to our goal -- a flexible, automated, secure and service-assured network. As with any new solution, it is important to stay focused on the goal and use the right architecture and technology for the job.
There is some hype around “cloud-native” solutions, where new applications are decomposed, portable, container and/or virtual machine-based and begin to address cloud native principles. Today cloud native is very attractive for some workloads. However, cloud native is not a universal solution, because delivering communications infrastructure, both the network functions and new services is a complex business and we must endeavor to apply the right solution, at the right time for the particular problem in the network we are trying to solve.
To maximize the benefits of Cloud Native deployments for Communication Service Providers (CommSPs), we also must address technical, operational and organizational barriers. To that end, Intel has worked with CommSPs, open source communities across Linux Foundation, the cloud native community, and ecosystem partners to address some of these technical barriers. We are working with the industry to advance the networking functionality within Kubernetes as a de facto orchestrator to accommodate Virtualized Network Functions that can be deployed within a cloud infrastructure.
CommSPs are evaluating a mixed approach with virtualization and cloud-ready concepts to drive efficiencies and rapid deployments. We must continue to invest in open source initiatives, such as Kubernetes and others, in order to apply the best known methods regardless of their origins. We have a lot to learn from each other.
Investing in Open Source Innovation at the Edge with Akraino
Last month, the Linux Foundation announced the Akraino project to create an open source software stack that supports high-availability cloud services optimized for edge, fog, and IoT. The Linux Foundation press release notes that a major communication service provider is “contributing code designed for carrier-scale edge computing applications running in virtual machines and containers to support reliability and performance requirements. The Akraino Edge Stack community, now forming, anticipates releasing open source project code in the second quarter of 2018.”
We’re excited to announce that Intel has joined this initiative and will contribute source code focused on Quality of Service (QoS) and low latency capabilities needed for edge use cases. It will also include core components of Openstack (Nova, Neutron, Ironic, Cinder, Ceilometer, and others), as well as other key upstream projects including ONAP, Ceph, and hypervisors.
We will participate in the initial governance, support community growth and continue to work with interrelated open source projects and communities, including OPNFV and ONAP under the LFN umbrella, By housing this initiative in the Linux Foundation, the industry can deliver a set of interoperable products focused on Edge, Fog and IoT and with ancillary benefits that will help CommSPs on their network transformation journey.
ONS North America, March 26-29, 2018
If you are attending the ONS North America conference, please join me for my talk titled, “Journey to Transformation,” on Tuesday, March 27 at 1:50 pm PT in the Wilshire Grand Ballroom, Intercontinental Los Angeles Downtown. I will touch on many of these key concepts in more detail during our time together.
Many of our brightest minds at Intel will be presenting and participating in panel sessions to talk about SDN, NFV, edge, open networking support of network transformation. Please refer to the agenda, and seek us out in Los Angeles.
I also encourage you to regularly visit our website for blogs, podcasts, webinars and other content on these important topics. We will dig in deep, and look forward to fruitful collaboration in open source and other ecosystem events in 2018.
You can follow me on Twitter at @DanRod2000