ETSI concludes NFV phase 1, collaboration key to phase 2

Networking Globe SDN NFV Virtualization

The European standardisation body, ETSI, has today drawn a line under the first phase of work being conducted by the Network Functions Virtualisation Industry Specification Group (NFV ISG).

Following the release of the first NFV whitepaper in October 2013; the group, which was initially founded by a core group of the world’s biggest operators, has moved to create a commonly agreed on reference architecture for NFV in the round, while many sub-divided working groups have been able to focus on the specific topologies therein.

At its core, NFV is the principle of consolidating physical network functions, which occur at various points in the service provider network, on to high-capacity virtual servers in the data centre. This premise is believed to enable rapid scale-out of necessary functions on an ad hoc basis, minimise redundancy of physical equipment in the network and subsequently increase service crease and roll-out while reducing both capital and operational expenditure.

ETSI claims the group has successfully completed its work in phase 1, including an infrastructural overview, an updated architectural framework, and descriptions of the compute, hypervisor and network domains of the infrastructure. Also identified as areas to address, and subsequently investigate further, are management and orchestration, security and trust, as well as resilience and service quality metrics.

The second NFV whitepaper was released two years after the group began, and provided an update on work being conducted by more than 240 organisations all focussing on progressing NFV.  This document provided commonly agreed upon definitions and concepts of NFV, an imperative step in advancing the open environment being referred to increasingly today. To date, there have been more than 30 multi-company efforts and capability demonstrations of NFV in action.

Steven Wright, the ISG’s chair, was full of praise for the work being conducted by ETSI’s fastest ever growing working group. “I’d like to thank all of the NFV ISG participants for their tremendous dedication through our numerous face-to-face meetings and conference calls to evolve the NFV vision from the original operator whitepaper and bring these documents to publication,” he said.

Looking towards phase 2 of NFV, the group has identified interoperability between equipment vendors as a milestone achievement to encourage further realisation of NFV in the real-world.

Don Clarke, who is the ISG’s Network Operators’ Council chair, has identified cooperation with external standards bodies as key to further progressing on the group’s aspirations. “Phase 1 exceeded our expectations in fostering an open NFV ecosystem and influencing standards development organisations, open-source communities and vendor roadmaps; achieving and validating interoperability at critical reference points is the key focus for phase 2,” he said.

Indeed, the stir created by NFV in the past 24 months has pervaded into the work being done by a number of other industry groups. The Open Networking Foundation is investigating the crossroads between NFV and its occasionally synonymous sibling software defined networking (SDN), while the IEEE is also examining many of the engineering considerations of moving towards a new, virtualised paradigm.

Meanwhile, perhaps causing the biggest stir outside of ETSI, is the Open Platform for NFV (OPNFV) group, hosted by the Linux Foundation which reported on at its launch last year. OPNFV is designed to provide a commonly agreed upon, open-source reference architecture, where the concept of NFV can be applied to an industry-wide and standardised platform.

The chair of OPNFV, Margaret Chiosi, was one of the founders of the original NFV initiative, and spoke to recently to share her views on the progress being made both inside and outside of the ETSI NFV ISG, and what’s needed to advance the industry further.

“If you look at what was produced by the ETSI ISG, it’s not something that can be built towards,” she said. “It’s a functional, conceptional framework which was done very, very well. We really needed it as an industry. But to get to implementation, you really need to get coding, and that’s why we created OPNFV.”

“Also, a lot of us, like carriers, vendors and chip vendors like Intel, are all doing parallel non-disclosure agreement-based work. After you do a lot of these you realise a number of common themes, but because it’s all under NDA you can’t tell what’s going to be open and what’s going to work. So, we realised that this will be an implementation organisation over a defining standards body. That’s really needed to accelerate the different components to build virtualised network functions over an NFV platform.”

Indeed, OPNFV has accelerated quickly, and already has more than 40 major companies from the industry contributing code towards this common framework.

With work simultaneously occurring across the industry, and with phase 2 of ETSI’s NFV vision making a principle out of industry wide collaboration, 2015 could really be the year where NFV becomes a reality among a number of the world’s most active proponents of the technology

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