If you missed the April 28th Cisco Knowledge Network (CKN) webinar, you missed a very special event (but, don’t worry we provide the link below to the replay for all those who did register). Cisco Knowledge Network is an ongoing series of webinars for our customers and other interested people. Typically we cover technology and solutions. On the April 28th CKN 233 people watched and which is a new encapsulation protocol that enables dynamic service creation and modification without touching the network topology.

Charles Darwin

What made this CKN even more special was that Cisco teamed up with our NSH partner Intel to deliver this webinar. Uri Elzur (Intel) and Paul Quinn (Cisco), the amongst the authors of the NSH protocol IETF draft, joined Humberto La Roche (Cisco CTO office) to present and answer questions.

But you ask yourself “What is NSH, why do we need it, and what are the benefits”?

Excellent questions:

Network Service Header (NSH) is a protocol designed to create dynamic service graphs.           NSH lets you construct a service path without any network changes. It is a data plane protocol, that is, NSH included, on the wire, with network packets. NSH is an open protocol, and has been accepted by the IEFT as a draft standard. In addition to Cisco and Intel, other vendors and operators are co-authors of the protocol specification.

Service graphs enable network operators to dynamically deploy and scale service offerings for their customers without changing the physical network topology. More generally, a service graphs has the branching property where flows can be steered into different paths so that very flexible topologies can be built. Service graphs using NSH also enable the sharing of extra information (such as subscriber ID, application type, etc.) – dubbed metadata – between nodes in the graphs chain for policy enforcement and any other usage required at the service level.

Network Service Header

NSH enables the following capabilities:

  • Automatically, dynamically create new services from shared resources (service nodes/functions) as needed.
  • Dynamically modify traffic steering (for example; a DPI can re-write the SPI based on outcome of application identification).
  • Provide complete end-to-end visibility, OAM, trouble shooting and performance management.
  • Dynamically change the data path to alter the service chain without touching the network topology.

In short, NSH makes SDN (Software Defined Networking) easy and provide tangible benefits by speeding and simplifying service creation and service modification.

How “Open” is this protocol?

Open source NSH implementations are available for Open Virtual Switch (OVS) and OpenDaylight (ODL). A full NSH data plane is implemented in OVS, including metadata support.   OpenDaylight provides a model-drive control plane for service chaining using NSH. OpenDaylight supports chain definition and creation via API and/or a GUI. Additionally, the IETF Service Function Chaining Work Group has adopted NSH.

What about this partnership?

Recently, Cisco joined Intel’s Network Builders eco-system of partners. The Cisco – Intel partnership includes our engineers and network architects working together deriving maximum performance of SDN/NFV (Network Function Virtualization) solutions over Cisco UCS platforms running on Intel processors such as DPDK. Through this partnership, we optimized for performance, scalability and survivability for our customers. Combined with the seamless integration with standards-based cloud technologies the end result is a solution that delivers the cloud experience Service Providers crave with the OpEx and CapEx benefits they require.

As promised, here is the link to the April 28th CKN webinar (only available to those who registered):

For more interesting information regarding Network Service Header:

Watch and listen to Sam Samuel, Cisco’s SP Mobility CTO, Telecom TV interview (You’ll love the London Tubes analogy).

Read this related NSH blog:

If you want to see what success looks like once you deploy Dynamic Service Creation, then have some good fun and watch this video:


Have questions or comments? Tweet us @CiscoSP36o.


Dan Kurschner

Marketing Manager, Product/Systems