Necessity drives innovation in NFV architecture.

Imagine if we could easily order secure network services we want online in the same amount of time it takes to brew a cortado – just minutes. Imagine no more. Lots of excitement and energy continue to surround production deployments of innovative cloud-based network functions virtualization (NFV) services and it is getting even better as enterprise and consumers customers can order, customize, and manage their network services with just a few clicks of a mouse.

Our long-time partners, Swisscom, Verizon, Telefonica, and NTT are expanding their cloud services in an effort to offer enormous savings and agility to their business customers, and to become among first movers that capture their share of the IT as a Service (ITaaS) opportunity that research firms forecast to be worth more than $150 billion in 2020.

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Barcelona’s unique architecture by Spanish Catalan architect Gaudí

So, just how are these services being deployed, and what does virtual customer premise equipment (vCPE) actually represent? In essence, unlike the unique design architecture of Antoni Gaudí in Barcelona, vCPE is a typical reference architecture for business services that offers the operator and end customers agility and flexibility. Quite simply, let’s first remove the perception that it is a virtual representation of a single physical CPE – especially since we still require a physical device at a demarcation point supplied at each customer site. Hence, vCPE is more about functions or networking capabilities (e.g., firewall, secure VPN, anti-malware) delivered as a service to an enterprise business or consumer, that are delivered together in virtualized software from a communications service provider’s (CSP) private cloud.

The use of the term CPE refers to the fact that these networking functions and managed business services have usually been delivered by one or more physical appliances on the customer premise – quite similar to Centrex and managed voice over IP (VoIP) services delivered to business customers.

For many enterprise customers, they would prefer to have some of these capabilities (especially those related to security) delivered directly on their own premises and also would like multiple access technology options so they can connect to the operator network (IPsec, MPLS, LTE, Internet). This brings to our industry the term software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) that is a specific deployment use case of vCPE that expands the managed network services market to smaller business customers.

Hence, as with any network evolution, cloud-based NFV services were initially deployed primarily from large, central data centers, but many factors (security, economics, scalability, quality of experience) necessitate the evolution of the architecture to a fully-distributed model. In this manner, these virtual network functions (VNFs) and services may be deployed using standard, off-the-shelf, software-defined compute and storage (x86, ARM) technologies placed anywhere on a string between the central data center to the point of presence (POP), access/mobile edge, and customer premise sites.

In the centralized model, Red Hat’s telco customers have deployed NFV infrastructure (NFVi) as the open-source, horizontal software platform to rapidly deliver cloud-based business, mobile, and video NFV services based on the Red Hat OpenStack high availability reference architecture. The natural evolution of the architecture is to automate the deployment of these NFV services and functions in a fully distributed architecture that optimizes the dynamic use and placement of compute, network, and storage resources. A number of networking models and open-source technology innovations may be used to make this evolution real – depending upon the telco and end customer services being delivered.

Please be sure to join us for what we expect will be quite an exciting and likely hectic OpenStack Summit in Barcelona, we hope to see a much more collaborative approach to “work harder and faster” together to help our customers actively transform their businesses with open source innovations. Make sure to catch Chris Wright‘s intriguing session, where he’ll speak with industry leaders from Telefonica, China Mobile, and ATT regarding automation options for telco operators deploying NFV services like vCPE. And look for more real-world sessions with our partners from KazTranscom and that are focused on open, interoperable, model-driven services orchestration to automate cloud based service delivery.

Finally, here’s more information of the Red Hat OpenStack Platform for production deployments of NFV services.

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