NFV basics: A guide to NFV implementation, challenges and benefits
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Brocade announced a new SDN architecture that will enable network functions virtualization within service provider data centers. At the heart of the architecture is the company's Vyatta software, a virtual router that Brocade is transforming into a platform for delivering virtual network functions.
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The Brocade Vyatta Platform will pull together open source and Brocade technologies to provide the network software that service providers will need as they build new data center networks to support NFV initiatives.
"Brocade has done a lot with Vyatta to this point," said Bob Laliberte, senior analyst with Milford, Massachusetts-based Enterprise Strategy Group. "The question is: Do you view this platform as an ending point or just a beginning? They're looking at this as a platform to leverage going forward."
Laliberte expects third parties to develop services and security technologies that run on top of the Vyatta platform, which becomes less of a router and more of an engine for network functions virtualization (NFV) functions. "If you deploy Vyatta and think of it as a platform, what can you deliver on top of that as well in an automated and orchestrated fashion?" Laliberte said.
Service providers will build thousands of NFV data centers
Service providers will be building "subscriber clouds, not to host applications, but to revolutionize or modernize the way they provide subscriber services," said Kelly Herrell, vice president and general manager for Brocade's software networking business unit. "As the telcos build out all this infrastructure in more regionalized areas, it's not just about producing one big mega data center. They'll use their central offices and other small facilities for smaller data centers. The number of data centers is going to explode. [CIMI Corp. President and Analyst] Tom Nolle says we could see an additional 30,000 to 100,000 data centers [built to support NFV]."
Brocade sees this as the real near-term SDN opportunity for networking vendors, and it's aligning its SDN efforts accordingly. The Brocade Vyatta Platform includes existing products and open source software from the OpenDaylight and OpenStack projects. The Brocade Vyatta architecture comprises three layers.
- NFV Connection Services: This layer is where the Vyatta software comes into play, including the Vyatta virtual router, virtual firewall and virtual VPN gateway, as well as Brocade's virtual ADX application delivery controller (ADC) -- all of which will be service-chained by the Vyatta platform.
- NFV Structural Services: This is the traditional SDN control layer. Brocade's architecture calls for using the open source OpenDaylight controller in this layer. Herrell would not comment on whether Brocade would release its own commercial version of OpenDaylight, as other vendors have done.
- NFV Functional Orchestration: In this layer, Brocade will use OpenStack for NFV orchestration with proprietary enhancements. These enhancements include Brocade's Application Resource Broker, a software module and policy engine for Brocade's ADX platform that can automatically deploy ADC resources based on application need. Brocade will also include its Dynamic Network Resource Manager, an extension to OpenStack's Neutron networking framework.
"We've been advancing the technology at each layer. We're offering a platform, rather than a product," Herrell said. "An integrated set of software components that together give you what you are looking for, both in terms of services and management."
Brocade will emphasize modularity with its platform. If a service provider wants to use HP or Red Hat's distribution of OpenStack, Brocade will interface with those distributions seamlessly, Herrell said.
Forty telecommunications providers across the globe are running proofs of concept with the Brocade Vyatta Platform, he said.
Brocade knows hypervisor-based network services
Performance will be a huge issue in the first generation of NFV implementations, said Peter Christy, research director at New York-based 451 Research. Service providers might find that running high-performance virtualized network functions on hypervisor hosts could be more challenging than it looks.
"One of the things that Vyatta/Brocade really knows how to do is run networking functions in virtualized software, which includes mastery of things like multi-core CPU utilization and getting excellent I/O performance through a hypervisor," Christy said. "So I believe that Vyatta brings important intellectual property and know-how to the party."
Brocade will need to offer concrete information about the ecosystem of third-party vendors who will develop network services that run on top of Vyatta, versus how many network services it will try delivering on its own.
"There still seems to be a bit of ambiguity about the ecosystem," said Brad Casemore, research director for Framingham, Massachusetts-based IDC. "Obviously they have an ADC and a firewall and are developing other pieces. How much will they do themselves, and how much do they intend to do with a platform and an ecosystem of partners? I think they recognize that they will have to be open so customers can p choose the pieces they want."
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