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What is the status of OPNFV?

Implementing NFV remains a daunting task, but Open Platform for NFV offers a path forward. Our expert explains where the open source platform stands today and where it's headed.

Having worked on a number of NFV-related projects over the past year, I've encountered a recurring challenge: getting a simple proof of concept (POC) or reference implementation up and running! Individually selecting and implementing each component of an NFV POC requires an individual to sort through everything from NFV infrastructure (NFVI) components, like kernel-based virtual machine (KVM), to configuration management tools, like Ansible for automation.

Just gaining an understanding of basic NFV requirements necessitates poring over ETSI documentation and reviewing the current open source projects and vendor implementations. Even getting a simple reference implementation of NFV off the ground therefore presents a significant challenge.

OPNFV today

One open source project is starting to provide some relief. Open Platform for NFV (OPNFV) can solve some of the hurdles associated with the basics of NFV implementations.

OPNFV is a software platform that aims to be the open source NFV platform. It consists of a handful of software components to produce an implementation of the oft-discussed ETSI NFV architectural framework. OPNFV's first release, Arno, fulfills the requirements for NFVI and the virtualized infrastructure manager. Essentially, this means that with the OPNFV platform you have the plumbing required to build virtualized network functions, as well as some of the software to manage them.

The Arno release primarily leverages OpenStack as the virtualized infrastructure manager, for tasks such as deployment of virtualized hosts. Arno also assists with the deployment of NFVI components, including KVM for virtualized computing and OpenDaylight with Open vSwitch for virtual networking. By leveraging OPNFV, all of these aforementioned components come in a single ISO installer to build the target NFV deployment. Also, many of the low-level installation tasks are automated using tools such as Ansible and Puppet, freeing up the engineer to fine tune a POC or to get up and running quickly.

Not perfect, but a good start

Note that OPNFV's current release is not meant for production deployment. While the project has overcome an impressive number of obstacles in the Arno release, there is still work to be done, for example, integrating all the necessary features required by NFV, such as those provided by a VNF manager.

Also, remember that this is the first release of the OPNFV platform, and, as can be expected with any early-stage open source project, work remains to smooth out all of the installation tasks. Nonetheless, Arno still offers a nice way to get hands-on with NFV technologies.

What does the future hold?

While the Arno release is a nice start, OPNFV has a way to go before establishing itself as the de facto open source NFV platform. Looking at the project list for OPNFV's next release, Brahmaputra, we can start to get a sense of which problems OPNFV will soon target. A couple of exciting examples include service function chaining, as well as group-based policy, so we will hopefully have the ability to orchestrate the insertion of virtualized network functions into service chains on an open-source platform. In the meantime, there is plenty more to learn and glean from the existing Arno release.

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This was last published in October 2015

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