Flexible, extensible, adaptable: towards a universal template for VNF onboarding and lifecycle management
"An industry 'app store' of VNFs remains a pipe dream, unless CSPs adopt a new approach to building and maintaining interoperability between VNFs and their platform environments."
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There are still many challenges to integrating virtual network functions (VNFs) with, and managing them in, communications service providers' (CSPs') network function virtualisation (NFV) platforms, despite nearly 5 years of work and a plethora of standards and developments (both open source and from vendors).
VNF onboarding is at the heart of the hardest challenge any industry faces today: how to automate interperability between diverse and changing software components, without adversely affecting these components or (more importantly) the customer services and experience they support.
An industry 'app store' of VNFs remains a pipe dream, unless CSPs adopt a new approach to building and maintaining interoperability between VNFs and their platform environments.
New circumstances demand new solutions, and this paper describes a 'model of models' or 'metamodel' appraoch that may help restart a stalled market.
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Leading CSPs want to join the digital economy and offer their networks as self-service platforms with high degrees of automation to deliver communications services on demand.
NFV is a key enabler of this vision. CSPs envisage that a new marketplace for VNFs will support their platforms, increasing innovation and revenue by providing customers with a broad range of networking capabilities from which they can create their own virtual networks.
Traditional networks based on phyisical appliances contrain customer choice, because new capabilities take time and are expensive to bring to market.
The NFV marketplace vision depends on vendors being able to onboard VNFs into a CSP's platform in a timely and cost-effective way. VNFs must interoperate with all the platform capabilities with which they interact, and which interact with them, in order to run reliably and efficiently.
The process of onboarding VNFs to the platform, and the processes that subsequently manage their lifecycles, should be automated for speed and cost reasons.
These processes must deal with the dynamic nature of a fully-virtualised environment and should be adaptable and extensible to handle changes in platform capabilities, as these are retired, replaced and or evolved.
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This white paper looks at a template for VNF onboarding and describes a 'metamodel' approach which is bringing hope to a stalled NFV market.
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