When you consider the overwhelming benefits of SDN and NFV, including lowering ongoing opex and capex costs through the commoditization of hardware, it is no surprise that global operators and service providers are planning to deploy solutions in the near future.
Software-defined networking (SDN) offers the ability to program the behavior of the network by using well-defined interfaces, separation of control and forwarding functions, centralization of control plane and the ability to automate and simplify application deployment. Network functions virtualization (NFV) relocates network functions from dedicated, purpose-built hardware to generic, more interchangeable networking equipment. These two work to complement each other by transforming the way networks are managed and used by maximizing utilization of hardware resources.
By envisioning networks that are simpler to configure and control, these architectures help to reduce management which will, in turn, reduce the time it takes to roll out new services. Improved network performance will be delivered by centralizing and separating the control logic to make better traffic decisions allowing networks to be more programmable, dynamic and more simplistic architecturally.
The current transition to virtual services has been primarily focused on network architecture and orchestration. The next area of focus will need to be on operationalizing the virtual networks and that of assuring the performance and availability of these virtual services. Service assurance and performance management is an area of great importance that must be taken into consideration as SDN/NFV services are being deployed as well as how service providers are going to monitor and assure their networks as legacy and virtual networks co-exist in this new hybrid environment.
Compared to legacy networks, there is a bigger challenge primarily due to the increased complexity and dynamic nature of these new end-to-end services. A service assurance system will be needed to be able to adapt in real-time to these service changes in order to accurately reflect the current state and path of both virtual and hybrid services.
Focusing on the solution
Given the challenges associated with the transition to virtualized networks, some of the important areas a service assurance solution will need to focus on are issues of network configuration, service and application performance, existing bottlenecks, planning for future capacity needs and guaranteeing service-level agreements -- all while integrating with the legacy network already in existence.
In addition, service assurance solutions will need to be integrated with OpenStack, OpenDaylight, SDN Controller(s) and Orchestration System(s). The solutions must also have the ability to adapt the virtual service in real-time yet maintain all health and performance historical data as the service evolves. Automated service optimization and remediation, closed loop feedback to assure service integrity and dynamic SLA management to monitor SLAs in real-time even as the service evolves and changes must be supported.
Point-in-time snapshots will also allow for service providers to be able to look back in time at any particular point to see what the network or service looked like and be able to see the performance of the service at that time. This will be critical for diagnosing, troubleshooting and triaging problems in live, dynamic virtual networks.
In conclusion, service providers need to plan ahead to incorporate service assurance into their SDN/NFV deployment plan and the resulting hybrid networks.
— Anand Gonuguntla, co-founder and CEO, Centina Systems, special to The New IP