I am very excited that our company, SDN Essentials, has joined the New IP Agency. We hope to provide benefits for the testing and interoperability goals of the New IP Agency.
As a services-only company, membership gives us a unique view into the world of virtual functions. We have worked with service providers, managed service providers, and yes, even enterprises in several projects around VNF validation (functional, interop and scale testing) and orchestration. In all of our projects, we have noticed that functional and scale testing usually work as desired with just a few tweaks, but that interop testing is still a challenge. This begs the question of why, and how can we overcome this?
As we know, the ETSI group has attempted to create some standards around the entire framework of NFV, a daunting task, and one that still has a ways to go. The ETSI framework came out very quickly, which meant there were several implementation details left up to the implementers. This created a space where VNF functions were unique by vendor or open source project. This bleeds over to other aspects of the NFV architecture, such as orchestration. However, I do not want to put blame on ETSI, as they took a problem head-on, and due to their vigorous work our industry has taken a huge step forward.
However, while we have been building standards, we have been figuring out where and how to run applications. While a lot of VNFs are built on top of a virtualized server via hypervisors, when working with multiple vendors, it has been realized that overhead of virtualization leads to big blobs of custom code. This is not the "simple" network that NFV has long been advertised to achieve. After the hypervisor came containers, which have proven to have better management capacities but still require quite a bit of custom code for interrogability. Let's just throw in the future of "compute anywhere" and the simplicity of NFV just got very complicated! We need to get to the point where a VNF is not an appliance but is treated as an application that helps drive and change network behavior.
Of course, it is easy to point out issues without providing a way to solve them. This is the reason that SDN Essentials has joined the New IP Agency: to help establish a baseline of where we are now, and where we need to be in order to achieve the true simplicity and agility that NFV promises. This will be in the way of testing, and most importantly, reports of these tests. This will drive some companies to improve on their products while others will be left to play catch-up. However, with proper testing we can get start to achieve some clarity around the wild west of NFV.
— Doug Marschke, CTO, SDN Essentials, a Member of the NIA