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Will NFV standards address orchestration in the near future?

NFV standards for orchestration are affected by the number of standards groups and service providers' individual approaches, says SDN expert Lee Doyle.

Network functions virtualization deployments have been hampered by the lack of NFV standards, especially in the critical management, automation and orchestration, or MANO, layer. A variety of NFV orchestration approaches are vying for market leadership, including offerings from leading service providers like AT&T, large network equipment providers, IT and systems integration firms, and standards organizations.

Defining NFV orchestration

NFV orchestration is the process of automating the deployment and provisioning of multiple network software components. Orchestration creates a recipe for deployment of a specific service or services that includes:

  • Automation of the service delivery;
  • Provisioning the resources required; and
  • Management of physical and virtual resources.

NFV standards for orchestration

The sheer number of standards bodies working on NFV standards and orchestration create complications for operators. For example, a list of some standards groups includes the European Telecommunications Standards Institute, Open Platform for NFV, Metro Ethernet Forum, Internet Engineering Task Force, OpenDaylight and OpenStack.

Recently, two competing standards organizations, OPEN-Orchestrator Project and Open Source MANO, were established to promote open source use of NFV orchestration. Service providers are unsure which NFV standards organizations are most likely to gain acceptance -- and, thus, be worthy of the considerable investment and risk associated with choosing an NFV orchestration platform.

NFV orchestration products

Providers have a large number of NFV orchestration products to choose from, including the following:

  • Hewlett Packard Enterprise NFV Director;
  • Cisco Evolved Services Platform;
  • Oracle Communications Network Service Orchestration;
  • Nokia CloudBand; and
  • Ciena Blue Planet.

Other NFV orchestration suppliers include Huawei, Ericsson, Adva Optical Networking, Nakina Systems, Anuta Networks and Aria Networks.

Provider-specific NFV orchestration platforms

To date, the 20 largest service providers have built their network infrastructure and operations to their own specific, proprietary standards. Most of them have unique plans to develop and deploy NFV technologies at a measured pace in their networks -- each with a specific architecture for NFV orchestration and links to their operational support system and business support system.

Most notably, AT&T has released open source elements of its NFV architecture -- Enhanced Control, Orchestration, Management and Policy (ECOMP) -- with the hopes of getting other service providers to adopt it as a standard. Because AT&T's architecture is specific to its own needs, other providers are  unlikely to adopt the entire ECOMP architecture. However, service providers could potentially adopt or adapt fragments of NFV standards and architectures that have realized more success.

Next Steps

Facing NFV orchestration challenges

SDN and NFV standards look to open source

NFV and SDN enhance each other's capabilities

This was last published in January 2017

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