Network Programmability in Cloud-Native NFV

Modern communications networks contain an ever-increasing variety of proprietary hardware. The launch of new services often demands network reconfiguration and on-site installation of new equipment which in turn requires additional floor space, power, and trained maintenance staff.

Network Function Virtualization (NFV) is a network architecture concept that uses the technologies of IT virtualization to virtualize entire classes of network node functions into building blocks that may connect, or chain together, to create communication services. A virtualized network function (VNF) allows networking software to run on top of standard commercial off-the-shelf compute servers instead of custom hardware appliances for each network function.

Software-defined networking (SDN) is an approach to building data networking equipment and software that separates the control plane and data plane from each other, such that the control plane resides centrally and the forwarding components remain distributed. SDN and NFV are complementary but increasingly co-dependent in order for the benefits of SDN to be fully realized.

More than two-thirds of all data centers will fully or partially adopt SDN by 2021, compared to just 16 percent in 2016, according to Cisco’s latest Global Cloud Index Report published on February 1, 2018. The updated report focuses on data center virtualization and cloud computing, which have become fundamental elements in transforming how many business and consumer network services are delivered.

The findings show that by 2021, 94 percent of all workloads will be cloud-based, and global cloud traffic will represent 95 percent of total data center traffic. The report also forecasts that SDN and NFV will carry more than half of the “within data center traffic” – this is traffic that remains within the facility – over the same time period, compared to 28 percent in 2016.

The majority of initial NFV development has been focused on the porting of monolithic software applications that is an integral part of custom hardware appliances to virtual machines (VM). However, a trend has been emerging in the world of SDN towards running NFVs in cloud-native networks in order to take advantage of the benefits of the existing cloud infrastructure and much quicker time to market.

With this in mind, I have developed a whitepaper called “Network Programmability in Cloud-Native NFV” to discuss the implications of the current industry trends on the network programmability requirements of VNFs. It describes the cloud-native approach of using microservices and containers to building a VNF, and its benefits. It discusses the cloud-native design principles and configuration management of a cloud-native VNF. This is to give you a view on network programmability requirements to consider when building your own VNFs.

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