Network Function Virtualisation (NFV)

Network Function Virtualisation (NFV) aims to transform the way that network operators architect networks by evolving standard IT virtualisation technology to consolidate many network equipment types onto industry standard high volume servers, switches and storage
document, “Network Function Virtualisation (NFV); Use Cases

The above document from ETSI describes nine use cases of interest for NFV. Further to yesterday’s blog entry about SDN (Software Defined Networking), NFV is designed (amongst other things) to provide operators with rapid service innovation through greater control of network functions than is supported by traditional switched networks.

The use cases presented in ETSI’s document are as follows:

  1. Network Functions Virtualisation Infrastructure as a Service (NFVIaaS)
  2. Virtual Network Function as a Service (VNFaaS)
  3. Virtual Network Platform as a Service (VNPaaS)
  4. VNF Forwarding Graphs
  5. Virtualisation of Mobile Core Network and IMS
  6. Virtualisation of Mobile base station
  7. Virtualisation of the Home Environment
  8. Virtualisation of CDNs (vCDN)
  9. Fixed Access Network Functions Virtualisation

Network functions that could be managed by the virtual control plane can include firewall/security, prioritisation, WAN optimisation, intrusion prevention, responsive traffic engineering, etc. Does it also follow that OSS is just an extended network function and significantly blurs the lines between OSS and the network control?

But the next question is more fundamental to why OSS architectures of the past are likely to undergo revolutionary change in the near future – ETSI presents but nine use cases out of an almost unlimited set of possibilities, so how can structured data models (as per most current OSS) support NFV?

In the past, before virtualisation proliferated, a CSP’s service offerings were underpinned by a network platform that adhered to a structured data model. A device had cards, which had ports, which could connect together to form nailed-up circuits.

With nailed-up circuits, the data model of the service layer that sat on top of the network platform was also fairly well structured. This was perfect for a relational database structure.

Since the advent of packet-switched networks, the service layer has become far more flexible, introducing complexity which has proved to be a major challenge for B/OSS.

But now that the data model of the previously rock-solid network layer is becoming increasingly customisable, B/OSS have an increased degree of complexity to deal with because the network and services layers are moving targets.

Seems to me that end-to-end ruthless simplification and unstructured data models are the only ways to deal with this increased variability.

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