Features and Analysis

NFV and SDN need OSS to take off

Network functions virtualization (NFV) and software-defined networking (SDN) clearly have the potential to revolutionize network operators’ businesses. A market research report from ACG Research released last month forecasts that the market for SDN software will be worth 20 percent of the entire opportunity at stake with service providers by 2018. But don’t be fooled into thinking that we don’t have a very long way to go with implementing the technology.

In our latest Quick Insights report, NFV: How will it impact OSS?, Rob Rich, Managing Director, Insights Research at TM Forum offers a glimpse of the heavy-duty Business and Operational Support System (BSS/OSS) transformation that needs to take place for NFV and SDN to take off. Rob’s report confirms what I’ve been writing about since I did my first piece on SDN controllers for Heavy Reading back in December 2012: There is no way to realize the promise of virtualization and software-defined networking unless interfaces between management and orchestration systems are defined. In short, there can be no NFV or SDN without BSS/OSS.

In an SDN environment, there have to be northbound connections between the SDN controller and BSS/OSS applications and there also have to be what I’ve always called ‘east-west’ connections between the orchestration systems managing the SDN and the BSS/OSS apps. Those east-west connections are critical for an application such as energy management where a service provider wants to automatically turn equipment off and on based on time of day, for example.

There has been some progress in this area, but there needs to be much more. The Open Networking Foundation has started a working group to define northbound APIs for SDN, and the Open Daylight project has created a northbound API to enable its SDN controller to work with the OpenStack cloud orchestration system. TM Forum also has begun work in this area with a new program focused on NFV and SDN.

Industry veteran Tom Nolle, President, CIMI Corp., and Founder and Chief Architect of CloudNFV, an industry consortium working on an early NFV proof-of-concept project, does an excellent job of explaining the relationship between virtualization and BSS/OSS in a recent blog: “SDN and NFV are both drivers of change because they change the nature of how services are built,” he writes. “In general the dynamism introduced to both resources and services by the notion of ‘virtualization’ puts a lot of stress on a system designed to support humans connecting boxes, which was of course the root of OSS/BSS. These are combining to push OSS/BSS toward what is often called…a more ‘event-driven’ model.”

Nolle has based the framework architecture for CloudNFV on TM Forum’s Information Framework (formerly known as SID and formally known as GB942; it is an important element of Frameworx, the Forum’s standards-based suite of tools and best practices), which he says offers a model for next-generation service orchestration. “Down under the covers, the problem that GB942 is trying to solve is the problem of context or state,” he writes. “A flow of processes means work is moved sequentially from one to another – like a chain of in- and out-boxes. When you shift to event processing you have to be able to establish context before you can process an event. That’s what GB942 is about – you insert a data/metadata model to describe process relationships and the data part of the model carries your parameters and state/context information.”

Reinventing the wheel is rarely a good move, and CloudNFV’s work using Frameworx as a reference model may, indeed, prove that it isn’t necessary in this case. It certainly will be interesting to see what comes out of the proof-of-concept project. We need to see many more projects like it to advance NFV and SDN.

TM Forum is working to define Catalyst projects in this area, so if you are a member and are interested in participating, please contact Ken Dilbeck, Vice President, Strategic Programs, at [email protected].


    About The Author

    VP, Collaborative R&D

    Ken has been involved in the telecommunication Industry for over 30 years and deeply involved in the TM Forum Collaboration program for over 10 years. He has been involved implementing and developing a broad range of OSS systems, from billing systems to element management systems, wireless and wireline. He was one of the co-founders of OSS/J and involved in settings it technical direction.

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