We at Cisco have been delivering network orchestration and automation products for a number of years now. Our customers have deployed Cisco Network Services Orchestrator (NSO) with NFV Orchestration (NFVO) and Elastic Services Controller (ESC) to orchestrate physical and virtual network in production in transport, security and data center domains. In parallel, we have been actively participating in industry standard bodies and plugtests to help advance multi-vendor and cross-platform support in NFV automation. As of today, Cisco NSO NFVO and ESC have been tested and certified with dozens of VNFs from over 25 vendors. As we head into the 3rd ETSI NFV Plugtest in May 2018, we would like to give an update on what we are seeing in NFV adoption, and the progress we continue to make in Network Orchestration and Automation.
Industry Observation – NFV Requirements
To start with, we see our customers gaining a more mature understanding the technical and operational transformation required to deploy NFV, and where they can expect return on investment for their NFV investment. From this understanding, they are making the following demand of vendors:
• Standardize to Support Automation – In the Open Networking Summit 2018 in Los Angeles, Service Providers and analysts alike urged VNF vendors to embrace standards, such as the ETSI NFV MANO specifications, so that the deployment of VNFs can be standardized and automated in provisioning and lifecycle management. $400 or more per truck roll is just too expensive for service provisioning/change.
• Multi-Vendor Support from Orchestration and Automation – Many vendors offer proprietary element managers. In some cases, they even provide single purpose orchestration and VNFM for their VNFs. Many of our customers realize that they need to consolidate their NFV Orchestrators and utilize a generic VNF Manager.
• NFV as a differentiator and monetization technology for connectivity services – Virtualized functions for fast evolving capabilities such as security and SD-WAN can be provisioned on demand, allowing service providers to offer differentiated, on-demand connectivity service offerings.
• Common licensing scheme. At the moment, every vendor has their own, proprietary licensing scheme. We as an industry need to come together and agree upon a standard license technology and maybe more importantly, a robust scheme for returning licenses when taking down VNFs or in the case of critical failure where the VNF is lost.
Product Update – Cisco NSO NFV Orchestration and Elastic Services Controller (VNFM)
As the NFV market matures, Cisco NSO with NFVO and ESC have continued to build on our experience in the network orchestration. We are happy to show customers how our Network Orchestration products can automate their NFV. Following are some of our product capabilities that I would like to highlight:
• Fast VNF onboarding with no coding – One of the requirements of NFV orchestration (NFV-O) and automation is that the NFV-O subsystem needs to support onboarding of a VNF and provision it into running process(es). We have been able to show Cisco’s NSO NFVO and ESC can accomplish this in an hour or two for a new VNF rather than taking days of customization. No code needs to be written to onboard a standard-compliant VNF on Cisco’s platform. Many customers have been pleasantly surprised to see the value of NFV-O realized in our demonstration.
• Deploying VNFs where needed – Up until recently, VNF deployments were manual. As people started to automate VNF deployments, they built scripts or products that are specific to one type of hypervisor, cloud or network topology. Service providers and enterprises have told us some virtual network functions may need to be deploy in data centers, some in co-lo facilities and some in branches. Having different tools manage such a multi-domain service chain is cumbersome. Cisco NSO NFVO with ESC as the VNFM can provision VNFs to a Cisco enterprise edge compute device (ENCS) for the branches, small form-factor servers (CSP2100) running a hypervisor or OpenStack and VMware in the data center. This means you only need one NFV network automation solution to deploy VNF to all different parts of your network.
• Broad support of multi-vendor VNFs – Cisco’s NSO NFVO and ESC have validated VNFs from over 25 vendors. These dozens of VNFs serve a wide variety of functions, including Mobility (Evolved Packet Core, Policy and Charging Rules), Security (DDOS prevention, Firewall, etc.), Load Balancing, Routing and Assurance Testing. Among Cisco products, the validated VNFs included CSR1kv, ISR4kv, ASAv, vWAAS, WAF and others. We continue to test and validate VNFs on our platform based on a combination of customer requests and at industry plugtests such as the 2ndETSI NFV Plugtest.
If you are looking for a vendor-agnostic Orchestration platform to automate your NFV initiative, Cisco NSO NFVO is up for the job.