Network Function Virtualization (NFV) and CCIE Exams: Everything You Need to Know!Paul Adam
In late 2012 seven of the world’s leading telecoms network operators (including AT&T) selected ETSI (pronounced as “at-see”) to be the home of the Industry Specification Group for NFV. Now, nearly four years and 40 published documents later, we see a large community working intensely to continue developing the required standards for NFV as well as sharing their experiences of NFV implementation and testing. The membership of ISG NFV has grown to over 290 individual companies including 38 of the world’s major service providers as well as who’s who from both telecoms and IT vendors.
The revolution that started with SDN in 2009 continues ahead with NFV, where SDN is more about network virtualization and orchestration at OSI layer 2-3 and NFV is more at layer 4-7. SDN and NFV combined represent perhaps the biggest changes in networking landscape over past few decades. Underlying theme behind both SDN and NFV is to move from system-based (aka box) to software-based model where both south and northbound interfaces are standardized across vendors which break off the hegemony of a single vendor controlling the ecosystem and locking customer into its hardware and software product cycles. Of course, the whole thing still runs on a set of Common Of the Shelf (COTS) x86 (or storage array or software-defined storage) hardware but unlike system-based networking, these are white boxes that don’t justify any premium! This represents a massive dilemma around monetization for vendors like Cisco, Ericsson or Huawei which represent 100s of Billions of $ in revenues and their business model is entirely built on system-based (but I digress!).
ETSI NFV can be best described using their own framework diagram.
There are three big components involved here, which are:
- Virtualized Network Functions (VNFs)
- Network Function Virtualization Infrastructure (NFVI)
- Management and Network Orchestration (MANO)
Virtualized Network Functions (VNFs)
Virtualized network functions (VNFs) are software implementations of network functions that can be deployed on a network functions virtualization infrastructure (NFVI). Example of VNF includes vFW, vLB, vPCRF, vIMS etc.
Network Function Virtualization Infrastructure (NFVI)
Network functions virtualization infrastructure (NFVI) is the totality of all hardware and software components that build the environment where VNFs are deployed. The NFV infrastructure can span several locations. The network providing connectivity between these locations is considered as part of the NFV infrastructure. NFVI is a functional block representing all the hardware (e.g. compute, storage, and networking) and software (e.g. hypervisors) components that together provide the infrastructure resources where VNFs are deployed.
Example of NFVI hardware includes servers, storage arrays or software-defined storage, and hardware/software switches.
Management and Network Orchestration (MANO)
Network functions virtualization management and orchestration architectural framework (NFV-MANO Architectural Framework) is the collection of all functional blocks, data repositories used by these blocks, and reference points and interfaces through which these functional blocks exchange information for the purpose of managing and orchestrating NFVI and VNFs.
Within each of these components there are other smaller components, let’s tackle them one by one.
Virtualized Infrastructure Manager (VIM)
Virtualized Infrastructure Manager (VIM) is a functional block with the main responsibility for controlling and managing the NFVI compute, storage and network resources.
VNF Manager (VNFM)
VNF Manager (VNFM) is a functional block with the main responsibility for the lifecycle management of VNF instances.
Element Management System (EMS)
EMS is a functional block with the main responsibility for FCAPS management functionality for a VNF.
NFV Orchestrator (NFVO)
It is a functional block with two main responsibilities:
- the orchestration of NFVI resources across multiple VIMs, fulfilling the Resource Orchestration (RO) functions
- the lifecycle management of Network Services (NS), fulfilling the Network Service Orchestration functions
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For more details on ETSI NFV framework, you can refer here.