NFV * Activity Report

NFV Activity Report 2015

Chairman: Steven Wright, AT&T GNS Belgium SPRL

Established to help enable the development of an open, interoperable, commercial ecosystem based on virtualised network functions

As innovation cycles continue to accelerate, hardware-based appliances rapidly reach the end of their life. Simply having a hard-wired network with boxes dedicated to single functions is not the optimal way to achieve efficient service offerings. Network design must be more agile and able to respond on demand to the dynamic needs of the traffic and the continuously evolving services running over it. The vision of ETSI’s Industry Specification Group (ISG) on Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV) is of an open ecosystem for NFV, enabling rapid service innovation for network operators and service providers. 

Key enabling technologies for this include two complimentary concepts, Software-Defined Networking (SDN) and NFV. With NFV, standard IT virtualisation technology is adopted to consolidate many network equipment types onto industry standard high volume servers, switches and storage. This involves implementing network functions in software which can run on a range of industry-standard server hardware. This software can then be moved to, or introduced in, various locations in the network as required. This will simplify the roll-out of network services, reduce deployment and operational costs and encourage innovation.

ISG NFV is supported by the world’s leading telecoms network operators. From the outset, the group attracted broad industry support and participation rose in 2015 to almost 300 companies of all sizes from all over the world including around 40 of the world’s major service providers as well as representatives from both telecoms and IT vendors.

Having defined the requirements and architectural framework for the virtualisation of network functions and identified the technical challenges involved, in 2015 ISG NFV made good progress with the second phase of its work, with the aim of publishing Release 2 by mid-2016. Release 2 includes normative specifications to facilitate the deployment and operationalisation of Virtual Network Functions. At the end of the year, the group was working on over 30 different specifications.

The ISG tackled some of the security and reliability issues in three new Group Specifications (GSs). The first of these begins to catalogue security features in management software relevant to NFV, taking OpenStack™, a widely adopted Cloud operating system, as its first case study. The second report identifies the architectures and designs to allow Lawful Interception (LI) capabilities to be provided in NFV deployments. The third report, on use cases and technical approaches for multi-layer host administration, includes operator-service related use cases (e.g. multi-tenant hosting and Infrastructure as a Service), security-sensitive or security network monitoring functions and compliance-related use cases such as Retained Data, LI and customer data privacy. 

Other key reports completed in 2015 addressed scalable architectures for reliability management, acceleration technologies and use cases, and SDN usage in an NFV architectural framework. This last report includes guidance, with a number of design patterns, and recommendations for potential requirements and further work. 

Work also began to identify preliminary topics for Release 3.

All draft documents produced by ISG NFV are publicly available which facilitates direct interaction with external bodies, both Standards Development Organisations (SDOs) and Open Source projects, and feedback from all players interested in NFV technologies. This contributes significantly to the quality of the documents produced.

Another critical success factor recognised early within the NFV community was the need to validate key concepts through Proof of Concept (PoC) demonstrations. The ISG’s PoC framework, published in 2014, has galvanised new development efforts in co-operation with network operators to demonstrate NFV capabilities, and has attracted considerable interest from vendors and operators. PoCs are thus helping to accelerate the adoption of NFV for a broader range of applications. By the end of 2015, 39 ISG NFV PoCs had been demonstrated or were in progress.

Following its success in 2014, in October 2015 ETSI partnered again with Layer123 to run the ETSI NFV PoC Zone at the SDN & OpenFlow World Congress in Düsseldorf, Germany. The NFV PoC Zone is an area within the World Congress Exhibition, dedicated to the demonstration of NFV PoCs accepted by ISG NFV. It represents the world’s largest showcase of live NFV PoCs under one roof.

Different information models and data models are being used amongst SDOs and Open Source communities, which is resulting in fragmentation and making implementation unnecessarily complex. This in turn increases cost and delays time to market. To address this issue, planning began for a major industry workshop to be held in Louisville, USA, in January 2016. This event will, for the first time, bring standards bodies and Open Source communities together to accelerate the alignment of their NFV activities. Collaboration such as this will help prevent fragmentation in NFV information modelling and deliver the services and network automation capabilities and the reduced operational costs which are key benefits of NFV.

As the focal point for the NFV ecosystem, the ISG also maintains core NFV documentation, including an architectural framework and associated technical requirements, and liaises with other specialist SDOs and industries which contribute technology or apply NFV concepts within their specialisations. In 2015, new collaboration was established with MEF, the global industry alliance for Carrier Ethernet, with the aim of advancing NFV service agility for Carrier Ethernet services using Lifecycle Service Orchestration.

ISG NFV also provides direction for NFV related messaging, conferences and events and fosters continuing innovation in the NFV concept in academic research communities. ETSI was a technical sponsor of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) NFV SDN 2015 conference held in San Francisco, USA, which provided a forum for research in this area.