Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Blueprint: MEF’s Third Network & End-to-End Service Orchestration

by Chris Purdy

A network that does the routine thinking, so you are free to innovate

The convergence of LTE, Cloud, SDN and NFV promises dynamic, assured and differentiated services over efficient, orchestrated, and interconnected networks. This, the MEF’s Third Network vision, demands end-to-end Service Orchestration – and this is how it works.

Hello World!

A simple statement, and yet it is shorthand for an immensely complex process that begins fingers reaching out to hold down the shift key and tap the “H” key. Even that statement is just shorthand for a cascade of millions of neural events involving visual feedback guiding the activation of thousands of muscle cells co-operating to provide a precise physical action…

So how can I ever write a word without going crazy at all the complexity? Because tapping the “H” key was an automatic motor response, learned before I could even walk. Knowing which key to tap came later: learning to write at kindergarten. My decision to begin with that particular sentence reflected a later layer of learning – how to illustrate complex ideas by analogy. This layered abstraction of the human mind evolved over many millions of years, but computer science achieved something similar in just seven decades.

In computing terms, we see layered abstraction in the distinction between 1) hardware, 2) operating systems and 3) software applications: so that each computing layer can innovate without impacting layers above or below.

In networking and telecom operations, however, we still work in functional silos – for example we have separate inventory, provisioning performance and fault management systems. Each such functional system must hold detailed information of all network domains – like Optical, Ethernet or IP  (see Fig 1). A change in any one domain would require changes in all systems – and that takes extraordinary effort, time and money – as if I had to re-wire my neurons for every single keystroke.

The Third Network

MEF has recently announced its new vision: a Third Network to deliver business-class connectivity as a ubiquitous, on-demand service – rather than as a laborious and lengthy installation and commissioning process.

While Carrier Ethernet offers outstanding service quality, performance and security to the enterprise, establishing this business class service can take weeks or months ­– especially if the connection spans more than one service provider. But for the home or mobile worker, reliant on the Internet, their service is ubiquitous, immediate and on-demand – but it falls far short on quality, performance and security. The THIRD network promises the best of both those worlds.

The vital role of Service Orchestration

End-to-end Service Orchestration manages the entire lifecycle of connectivity services: Fulfilment, Control, Performance, Assurance, Usage, and Analytics. It holds detailed service inventory of all services in a layer or domain, providing the necessary APIs for information exchange between service providers and internal systems operating at other layers. It can be compared to those layers of intelligence in my brain that not only manage the automatic processes of body maintenance and immunity against disease, but also higher, learned skills like language, as well as critical decision making.

To illustrate how this works, consider the Cortx Service Orchestrator launched by CENX in September 2014. This product consists of a set of software modules that can be integrated within an existing network operation, utilizing open APIs to interface with existing systems.  Cortx has been specifically designed to support multi-layered network domains, and new technologies such as NFV and SDN, so it need only know and enforce the service level parameters, not how the service is implemented.

How does the brain manage complex physical actions? The first requirement must be continuous input from every nerve ending and sensory organ across the body: I can only move my finger to the “H” key if I know the position of myself and my finger, and can see where the target key is.

So the first essential Cortx function is Continuous Data Audit, to receive data from multiple sources right across the network – including OSS and test equipment. Just as in the brain, this would amount to a torrent of data that would overwhelm any legacy management system, but this system uses big data analytics to make sense of it. So the second essential function is Service Visualization: shaping this torrent of data into meaningful information by presenting it as a geographical or topological map revealing the end-to-end circuit path topology for on-net and off-net circuits and presenting a monitoring dashboard that includes status of network build (ENNIs, EVCs, UNIs), and the inventory, performance, and fault states of Ethernet and other connections.

The brain does something similar: presenting a torrent of nerve impulses from the optic nerve as a recognisable “H” key, towards which I can then direct my finger.

Once those two essential functions are satisfied, then any number of extra solution modules can be added as your needs evolve beyond inventory integrity assurance, to network build-out and implementation, and to end-to-end performance monitoring and management.

Already available for Network Monitoring and Management are:
  • Real-Time Troubleshooting – displaying near real-time state and monitoring data and isolating faults to the root cause. This reduces MTTR and truck rolls, and helps determine fault responsibility between SP networks.
  • Network Analytics – planning network capacity and managing CAPEX with superior reporting to allow just in time upgrades.
  • SLA Management – allowing service providers to manage SLA parameters as across multiple access vendors, and helping enterprises with visualization of near real-time performance metrics, and reporting.
  • Capacity Planningproviding fine-grained measurement of capacity, utilization, and performance in order to pinpoint where service is degrading and automating the capacity upgrade process.  This reduces the CAPEX and OPEX for upgrades.
To support Network Build and Implementation there are further modules:
  • Automated Reconciliation – re-populates inventory systems with clean data, and re-provisions network equipment to match inventory data, ensuring trustworthy data across the network.
  • Automated Ordering – translates order processes and formats between providers and customers, exchange tenants and access vendors. This reduces order fall-out and accelerates time to market.
  • Automated Provisioning – automatically configures network equipment functions, such as port selection, bandwidth, and service type, to initiate service provisioning. This improves the accuracy of network services provisioning and reduces fall-out.
  • Workflow Orchestration - coordinates workflows for full lifecycle of each service, triggering other modules, tracking workflow analytics in a dashboard.  This reduces service delivery intervals and operational cost due to automation. 

 Figure 2 summarizes these currently available modules and their potential applications.

Service Orchestration in practice

Today’s soaring data usage and high service expectations mean that providers must deploy their services ever more flexibly, quickly and with impressive quality from day one. This can only be achieved by Service Orchestration – automating the entire lifecycle of service ordering, provisioning, implementation, analytics, and assurance.

Just as there are no limits to the potential of an intelligent brain: so there are no limits to the number of ways that Service Orchestration can help cloud providers, service providers, large enterprises and anyone responsible for large, complex networks. So one example will be given – Fig 3.

This graph illustrates the increase in actual bandwidth demand for a mobile operator over six years (pale green) and the general estimate of bandwidth demand for an average cell site (straight red line).

Until now it has been necessary to plan for a major upgrade every three years, and this requires (black line) a huge margin of extra provisioning to allow for unexpected variations as well as the anticipated increase. There are many reasons for this, such as:
  • Legacy leased line backhaul requires physical installation and cannot offer granular bandwidth increases
  •  Lack of the sort of detailed data and analytics provided by Cortx means “just in case” provisioning with a wide margin for error
  • Lack of automation in the upgrade process requires considerable forward planning and a lot of manual labour.

 Service Orchestration makes it possible to upgrade more flexibly as well as more accurately. In this example we have simply increased the upgrade cycle from three years to one year (dark green line) to show a massive saving. “Wasted bandwidth” is shown as the blue striped area between the step-changed bandwidth and the actual light green bandwidth requirement – and the area of waste under the black line is vastly greater than that under the dark green line. What’s more, further savings could be made by reducing the upgrade cycle to six months or less. 


This article can offer only a glimpse of the potential benefits of end-to-end Service Orchestration – not only to deliver immediate improvements in visualizing, management agility and upgrade times for existing networks, but also to support migration to tomorrow’s NFV and SDN innovations.

As Glen Ragoonanan, Principal Analyst at Analysys Mason, points out: “SDN and NFV adoption is being inhibited by a lack of standards and immaturity of OSS, policy-based controller products that can integrate with operators’ existing environments”. Cortx is filling that gap by providing the performance and elasticity needed for NFV, network scalability and real-time big data analytics, while its open REST APIs allow faster integration for SDN controllers and NFV management.

NFV and SDN are key to the Third network future and its promises of lower CapEx and operating costs, as well as service potential and agility, but they demand a fundamentally new approach to managing network services – one that orchestrates services top-down, across both physical and virtualized infrastructures, across multiple vendors, and across multiple carriers.

About the Author

Chris Purdy is CTO at CENX.  He also serves asspecification editor of Carrier Ethernet Service Constructs in the MEF’s technical committee. Before CENX, Chris was CTO at Nakina Systems, a telecom operations software vendor, and helped take the company from early stage to one deployed in multiple Tier 1 providers managing thousands of network elements. Prior to Nakina, Chris spent 19 years with Nortel in numerous roles including Professional Services, Senior Network Operations and IT consultant, and Director of Optical Ethernet Management. Chris holds a BASc. in Electrical engineering from the University of Toronto.

Dell Releases its Network Functions Virtualization Platform

Dell introduced its deployment-ready NFV platform, which consists of its new Intel Xeon-powered 13th generation PowerEdge servers, Dell Open Networking, and software from open ecosystem partners and open source distributions. The platform also includes foundational software and open interfaces for Management and Orchestration (MANO) for simple operation and ease of integration.

Key marketing points:

  • Open and Standard: The Dell NFV platform is built on Dell PowerEdge servers with the latest Intel Xeon E5-2600v3 processors combined with the innovative open networking platforms and a rich set of open interfaces ensuring maximum interoperability, manageability, and investment protection.  
  • Scalable in Any Direction: The Dell NFV platform can scale easily—up, down, or out—to accommodate a wide range of design goals, service capabilities and environmental conditions from small, unstaffed points-of-presences, to central office environments, and to hyperscale data centers. This includes options for Network Equipment-Building System (NEBS) platforms, Fresh-Air systems and modular/containerized solutions.

  • Driving Open Source Innovation: The Dell NFV platform aims to provide a choice of software stack to complement Dell’s infrastructure and management software. This announcement extends Dell’s collaboration with Red Hat to co-engineer OpenStack-based NFV and SDN solutions specifically for the telecommunications industry.  
  • Open Partner Ecosystem: Dell will foster an open partner ecosystem and welcomes participation and engagement without exclusivity across all functional areas. 
  • Dell is making contributions to the Open Compute Project for disaggregating server elements
  • Dell is backing the Linux Foundation’s Open Platform NFV Project (OPNFV) enabling open source reference implementations.
  • Dell and Red Hat will make NFV test equipment available in their respective customer labs to demonstrate their joint offering.

As part of this announcement, Dell will begin shipping starter kits for early adopter proof-of-concepts (PoCs) and trials. The starter kits are smaller footprint Dell NFV platform implementations designed to jumpstart development and PoC efforts. Two different starter kit configurations are available now; one based around the new PowerEdge R630 1RU compute nodes the other based around the Dell M1000e blade chassis and the new M630 compute blades.

“NFV marks a momentous technology shift – and opportunity – for telecommunications providers. In the past, they had to rely on both highly-proprietary and complex arrangements of dedicated appliances for service delivery. Now, in an increasingly disaggregated world, the technology options can be overwhelming. Dell wants to simplify this and cut through the clutter,” said Marius Haas, Chief Commercial Officer and President, Dell Enterprise Solutions. “Our goal is to deliver the most open, flexible and practical NFV platform by combining our technology with a strong partner ecosystem to help service providers streamline service creation and delivery.”http://www.dell.com/learn/us/en/uscorp1/press-releases/2014-10-14-dell-software-open-networking-network-functions-virtualization

Video: Dell's Pathway to NFV

Arpit Joshipura provides a 1-minute overview of the big disruption ahead with NFV .  Dell sees a big opportunity with NFV Pods -- essentially x86 servers stitched together with switches, storage and a layer of open source software.

See video:  http://youtu.be/Rj8X_e1LxCU

NEC Teams with Dell on NFV/SDN

NEC Corporation of America (NEC) announced a collaboration agreement with Dell on a high-performance, highly reliable SDN-enabled fabric solution.

Recently, the companies completed interoperability validation between NEC’s ProgrammableFlow Controller and Dell’s OpenFlow-enabled S-Series switches, helping ensure that the devices worked well together.

“Dell’s SDN strategy is built on providing customers a choice, allowing them to tailor networks to their specific needs. Combining our innovative Dell Networking switching platforms with the leading NEC ProgrammableFlow Controller, we are able to deliver a highly differentiated and cost-effective SDN solution to customers embracing Network Functions Virtualization and OpenFlow technologies,” said Arpit Joshipura, vice president, Product Management & Strategy, Dell Networking.

“As leaders in the networking industry, NEC and Dell are dedicated to providing our customers with more choices and better flexibility when


Europe India Gateway Upgrades Cable to 100G with Ciena

The Europe India Gateway (EIG) consortium completed the first phase of a 100G upgrade on its international submarine cable system, spans approximately 15,000 kilometers and connects 12 countries across three continents.

The first phase of the EIG cable upgrade - from the United Kingdom to Djibouti - is complete, with phase two - enhancing the cable capability to India - underway.

Ciena said its GeoMesh submarine solution, using the OneControl Unified Management System, combined with the 6500 Packet-Optical Platform and optical bypass, gives EIG an end-to-end view of both its terrestrial and submarine networks. The 100G wavelengths installed for EIG will be able to seamlessly offer 10G and 100G services.

“This win further expands our footprint in the submarine market and cements our role as a strategic supplier to top international cable consortia. High-bandwidth, on-demand applications and services continue to put pressure on today’s submarine networks, requiring providers like EIG to leverage platforms that not only increase capacity but also provide more programmability and enhanced network management capabilities,” stated Ed McCormack, Vice President and General Manager of Submarine Systems, Ciena.


  • The EIG Consortium members are: AT&T, Bharti Airtel, BT, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL), Vodafone, Djibouti Telecom, du, Gibtelecom, Libyan Information and Technology Company, MTN Group, Omantel, PT Comunicacoes, Saudi Telecom Company, Telecom Egypt, Telkom SA SOC Ltd and Verizon. The original suppliers for the EIG cable system were Alcatel-Lucent and Tyco Electronics Subsea Communications (TE SubCom).

EIG will offer up to 3.84 terabits per second (Tbps) of capacity along a key route connecting Europe with India via the Mediterranean Sea. The $700 million high-capacity fiber-optic cable is described as one of the most advanced submarine cable systems in the world.

HP Intros Distributed Cloud Networking for Multi Data Centers

HP introduced a new Distributed Cloud Networking (DCN) solution based on SDN and aimed at clouds spanning multiple data centers.

DCN is especially aimed at accelerating communication service providers' (CSP) journey to Network 
Function Virtualization (NFV) by optimizing network resources, increasing agility and 
speeding time-to-market through dynamic, service-driven configuration.  The idea is to enable network administrators to control the distributed networking environment from one central location, whether the 
organization incorporates private, public or hybrid data centers. 

Key elements include:

  • HP Virtualized Service Directory, refines service design and integrates with customer service policies. This allows for seamless management of users, compute and network resources.
  • HP Distributed Services Controller, serves as the control plane of the data center network. Through controller federation, network administrators have a centralized control of their network, regardless of how many data centers are being managed, allowing scalability, resiliency and consistency of network implementation.
  • HP Distributed Virtual Routing and Switching, based on Open vSwitch, serves as a virtual endpoint for network services allowing for changes in the compute environment to be immediately detected, thereby triggering the right network connectivity to ensure the needs of applications are met. 
“Customers are looking for ways to upgrade their networks to better focus on building business and incorporating new technologies that adapt to rapidly changing demands,” said Antonio Neri, senior vice president and general manager, Servers and Networking, HP. “Distributed Cloud Networking allows customers to seamlessly work across their distributed environment, removing the need to manually reconfigure the network and offering a more efficient infrastructure at reduced costs.” 

HP Technology Services offers solution level support with its Datacenter Care program. To help customers manage risk, HP Trusted Network Transformation spans strategy, assessment, design, deployment, customized support, management of change, and complete lifecycle program management across all transformational elements.

The DCN solution is immediately available worldwide with a starting price of $65,585 for a single instance and will also be offered for enhanced virtual networking as part of the previously announced HP OpenNFV program.


The announcement was made at SDN and OpenFlow World Congress in Dusseldorf, Germany.

HP and VMware Expand Partnership

HP and VMware are expanding their longstanding partnership with a new enterprise-class appliance for software-defined IT infrastructure.

The HP ConvergedSystem 200-HC EVO: RAIL is a hyper-converged infrastructure appliance powered by VMware EVO: RAIL that tightly integrates compute, network, storage and management resources seamlessly.  It features a pre-integrated, pre-tested 100 percent VMware software stack, to provide high availability at both the compute and storage layers, with VMware vSphere, VMware Virtual SAN, VMware vRealize Log Insight (formerly vCenter Log Insight), and the EVO: RAIL engine.

“This collaboration between HP and VMware to deliver EVO: RAIL will provide organizations with an innovative approach to driving better business outcomes through a software-defined data center architecture,” said Raghu Raghuram, executive vice president, Software-Defined Data Center Division, VMware. “Together, HP and VMware are helping customers dramatically simplify and accelerate the delivery of software-defined infrastructure services while lowering operating expenses.”

“Today businesses are looking for more efficient ways to speed time to application and service delivery that reduce the strain on existing infrastructure, said Nariman Teymourian, senior vice president and general manager, Converged Systems, HP. “Our collaboration with VMware to deliver hyper-converged infrastructure reinforces our commitment to provide customers superior technology choices as they migrate from inefficient legacy systems to modern integrated infrastructure.”


Alcatel-Lucent Teams with KT for NFV Trials

Alcatel-Lucent announced a technical collaboration agreement with KT to drive innovation and the adoption of a comprehensive Network Functions Virtualization (NFV)-based infrastructure.  KT sees NFV underpinning its Giga Network architecture.

Under the agreement, KT and Alcatel-Lucent will create an NFV proof-of-concept that includes Alcatel-Lucent’s:

  • Virtualized Evolved Packet Core (vEPC) systems to provide advanced service delivery capabilities;
  • CloudBand NFV platform for the management of the NFV environment;
  • and Nuage Networks Virtualized Services Platform (VSP) for software defined networking (SDN) to consolidate and automate the network.


Aerohive Cuts Q3 Guidance

Aerohive Networks, which specializes in controller-less Wi-Fi and cloud-managed mobile networking for the enterprise market, trimmed its financial guidance, saying it now expects revenue for the quarter to be approximately $34.5 million to $35.5 million, which is below the company's previously stated guidance of $38.0 million to $40.0 million. The company also expects for the third quarter net loss per share on a GAAP basis to be in the range of 18 cents to 16 cents, compared with the company’s previously stated guidance of 16 cents to 14 cents.

“As we approached the end of the third quarter we saw weaker-than-expected order volume that led to revenues below our prior guidance. The Q3 shortfall was primarily in our less-developed sales territories where sales capacity is not ramping as quickly as expected and performance has been inconsistent,” stated David Flynn, President and Chief Executive Officer. “Our more mature sales territories generally continued to perform well, following the strong growth they have delivered in recent quarters. We do not believe this quarter’s performance reflects a fundamental shift in the market demand for our products - we added over 1500 new end-customers in the quarter, and we remain confident in our long-term strategy and growing market opportunity.”