The global telecommunications industry is undergoing an unprecedented transformation to software-based networking driven by the emergence of Network Functions Virtualization (NFV). Last week in downtown Denver, CableLabs welcomed over 130 delegates from all over the world to the 19th plenary session of the ETSI NFV Industry Specification Group. With over 300 member companies including 38 global network operators, ETSI NFV is the leading forum developing the foundation international standards for NFV.
In 2013 ETSI NFV published the globally referenced Architectural Framework for NFV and over the past four years has been working intensively to specify the interfaces and functionality in sufficient detail to enable vendors to bring interoperable products to the market.
Recently I calculated that over 90,000 individual-contributor hours have been spent in the ETSI NFV face-to-face plenary meetings to date — and this doesn’t include working group interim face-to-face meetings and conference calls. In a typical week, there are at least seven different working group calls timed to enable participation by delegates located around the globe.
ETSI NFV has openly published over 60 specifications which define the functional blocks needed to deliver carrier-grade network performance in the telecommunications environment. Taking a page out of the open source playbook, ETSI NFV maintains an Open Area where draft specifications which are still being worked-on can be downloaded to enable the wider industry to see where the work is heading, and for developers to begin writing code.
Why is the ETSI NVF work critical?
The ETSI NFV work enables telecommunications operators to use cloud technologies to implement resilient network solutions able to deliver the rigorous service levels which underpin critical national infrastructures. The ETSI NFV work also enables domain-specific standards bodies such as 3GPP, Broadband Forum, IETF, MEF etc. to call out common foundation specifications which will enable their solutions to co-exist on the same virtualization platform. Open source communities also need to reference common specifications to ensure their solutions will be interoperable. The need for open source communities to reference the ETSI NFV work to avoid fragmentation is a topic I’ve become quite vocal about in recent contributions to international conferences.
Encouraging interoperability within an open ecosystem has been a key objective for ETSI NFV since it was launched. To drive this forward, ETSI NFV recently completed specifications which detail the REST APIs between key elements of the NFV Architectural Framework. Additional specifications, including the APIs exposed to Operations Support Systems (OSS), will be completed by the end of this year. This is a key piece of the puzzle to realize our vision for NFV. Bruno Chatras at Orange who chairs this work has blogged on this so I won’t cover it in detail here. Suffice to say; this new direction will massively accelerate progress on NFV implementation and interoperability.
Tutorial and Hands-on Demo Session
As many of the world’s key experts on NFV were present for the ETSI NFV plenary sessions we organized an NFV tutorial and hands-on demo session on Monday afternoon which I called a ‘SpecFest’. This enabled local technology people to meet and interact with the experts. I think the term ‘Hackfest’ is overused and I wanted to promote the idea that demonstrations of running code centered on adherence to detailed specifications could also be exciting. We sent invites to local cable operators, startups and Colorado University at Boulder to help broaden awareness of the ETSI NFV specification work. I wasn’t disappointed, over 70 delegates turned up and over 50 participants joined remotely. The tutorial and demo materials are freely available for download. The event exceeded our expectations, not only in the level of participation but also Nokia stepped up with the first public demonstration of running code implementing the ETSI NFV specs run live from their center in Hungary. It was truly a ‘SpecFest’!
Joining up with Open Source
Coincidently there was an OpenStack Project Teams Gathering (PTG) meeting taking place in Denver, and it was too good an opportunity to miss to join up the two communities for a mutual update. The OpenStack Glare Project intends to implement interfaces based on the ETSI NFV specifications, and ETSI NFV has just completed a gap analysis in relation to OpenStack. The opportunity to get together to share technical perspectives, build the relationship and figure out how to collaborate more closely, was timely. The CableLabs NFV software platform is centered on OpenStack and we are committed to open standards, so this type of collaboration is something we are very keen on.
Excellent Progress on ETSI NFV Releases
The ETSI NFV working groups met in parallel throughout the week with over 230 contributions to work through. Release 2 maintenance is close to being completed and new features for inclusion in Release 3 went forward for more detailed analysis including Network Slicing, License Management, Charging and Billing, Policy Management, etc. Excellent progress was made on specifying the Network Service Descriptor (NSD) and Virtual Network Function Descriptor (VNFD) with TOSCA. This augments the REST APIs I mentioned earlier.
As a member of the ETSI NFV leadership team, I’ve been a keen advocate for ETSI NFV to strictly focus on work that is high value to the industry. Quality is critically important, we want to avoid work that burns time but doesn’t move us towards our goals. With this in mind, I was pleased to see new work items approved that address genuine gaps. These included Connection-based Virtual Services led by Verizon, NFV Identity Management and Security led by BT and NFV Descriptors based on YANG led by Cisco, amongst others.
The next ETSI NFV plenary will be held in Sophia-Antipolis December 5–8, 2017 and we are planning ahead for the second ETSI NFV Plugtests to be held at the ETSI Center for Testing and Interoperability (CTI) January 15–19, 2018. The first Plugtests were over-subscribed, so participating companies will need to register early!
What is CableLabs doing in this space?
CableLabs has been working on SDN and NFV for over 4-years. We have studied the impact of NFV in the home environment and developed insights which smooth the way for virtual provisioning in the Access Network. We are a leading contributor to ETSI NFV and our NFV & SDN stack — SNAPS is part of OPNFV. We are keen to encourage interoperability for NFV and SDN solutions, CableLabs subsidiary Kyrio operates SDN-NFV interoperability labs at our Sunnyvale-CA and Louisville-CO locations which enable vendors and operators to work together.
ETSI NFV has created the foundation standards to deliver carrier-grade virtualization capabilities for the global telecommunications industry. You can find more info at ETSI NFV Industry Specification Group. Don’t forget to subscribe to our blog to find out more about ETSI NFV in the future.
Don Clarke is a Principal Architect at CableLabs working in the Core Innovation Group. He chairs the ETSI NFV Network Operator Council and is a member of the ETSI NFV leadership team.