Service assurance, a catalyst for NFV and SDN
In my previous blog, I have discussed about Management and Orchestration (MANO) and hybrid networks. In this post, I will dwell in to the details about service assurance and its importance in hybrid networks.
Most of today’s networks are brown field. As the operators start their journey towards NFV & SDN, they start to transform some part of their networks. Not all the networks will be converted to NFV and SDN overnight and it will take long time before migrating most of the PNF’s (physical network function) to VNF’s (virtual network function). Similar process holds good for SDN transformation as well. Some of the networks may never be virtualized. So, for a foreseeable future, the networks will be a combination of legacy, virtual (NFV) and SDN, what I call them as “Hybrid networks”.
In the legacy world, service assurance played a role to manage the network, identify root cause of a problem, provide performance reports and also take some proactive action. But, the role service assurance or requirements of service assurance will be different for NFV, SDN and hybrid networks. More than ever, service assurance will play a key role or act as a catalyst for the NFV and SDN transformation and here is why:
Role of network analytics in service assurance
Automation, network agility and service agility are the corner stones of NFV and SDN. This is one of the key areas where service assurance plays vital role. In the next generation service assurance, network analytics will play a key role by providing proactive and predictive actionable intelligence. Along with other network and context information, service assurance can help close the loop to enable the automation, network agility & service agility. Policy decisions can be applied by using the actionable intelligence from network analytics. Assurance & analytics information can be used by the orchestrator to manage the service and network resources efficiently both in legacy and virtual networks. For example, network assets can be optimized, moved around or scale up/down based on the proactive and predictive information and thus providing the network agility. Another example, based on services need at a certain time, VNF’s can be scaled up/down or new VNF’s can be created.
Impact on open source projects
To be effective and meet the aspirations of NFV, Service assurance solutions should cover the hybrid networks. Open source projects such as OpenDaylight and OpenStack (Ceilometer) need to enhance their performance and assurance information that takes into account the network functions that will run on top of NFVI. Both ODL and OpenStack are upstreaming into OPNFV. So, OPNFV with the projects such as SFQM (Software Fastpath service Quality Metrics) is moving in the right direction in the area of service assurance of NFV. To provide end-to-end service assurance of hybrid networks, service assurance solution will rely on legacy network information (performance counters, alarms, events etc), NFV (OpenStack) and SDN (ODL) as inputs for its decision making.
Cloud enabled service assurance solution
In addition, the service assurance solution itself will reside as multiple VM’s in data center. Services assurance solutions can be delivered as SaaS model. Also, in the legacy networks probes play a key role in providing real time information about how services are consumed by end users. The NFV transformation will also push the probes in to virtualized environments as virtual probes.
To summarize, Service assurance needs to be real time, automated, and include both physical & virtual. Network analytics is vital for the service assurance. Service assurance plays a catalyst role for the NFV & SDN transformation as it helps to improve automation, a corner stone of NFV & SDN. As there will be islands of NFV, SDN and legacy networks for a foreseeable future, it is important to cover e2e service assurance across all domains.