It seems that everywhere I go now I hear that network functions virtualization (commonly referred to as NFV) is the answer as it can provide greater flexibility for innovation and the launching of new services. Virtualization, and the automation it enables, is rapidly changing how we assure communication services. While it provides reliability and availability, optimizes capacity and utilization, delivers a superior customer experience, and generates new sources of revenue and customer value, it is not without its risks and challenges.
When assuring most physical network functions (PNF) many legacy assurance tools, and in some cases manual processes, are able to handle the data flow and maintain an adequate level of accuracy and integrity. However, this simply will not fly in an NFV environment. Why not? Well, these tools, particularly manual processes, are simply not flexible or scalable enough to cope with the massive volume of changes and the multiplicity of environments. With the enhanced agility, elasticity, and complexity of NFV, a minor infrastructure performance issue monitored by a PNF software solution can rapidly escalate to become a major negative event, impacting particular services, the entire network, or ultimately and critically, your customers.
NFV environments are essentially comprised of complex services on top of elementary ones. There are several layers that need to be simultaneously monitored, maintained, and managed. The first of these is the physical layer, which houses the physical resources for compute, storage, and networking. The next is the virtualized layer. This includes network zones such as virtual firewalls and virtualized functions used by applications like a software-defined networking controller (SDNC), or home subscriber service (HSS). Lastly, the third layer emulates the functionalities of a physical platform on which the desired application is executed, providing an extra level of security.
As a result of this complexity, there is simply far too much information to rely on legacy or manual processing. To be able to guarantee quality and availability of services, everything needs to migrate to a centralized, automated monitoring and resolution process/platform. As an example, the risks of accurate inventory management are dramatically and logarithmically increased in the transition from manual to automated network functionality. Forgive me for the plug, but at CENX we have solved this problem for some of the world’s largest communication service providers by providing closed-loop assurance in the SDN/NFV environment. The CENX closed-loop assurance model provides a solution, per domain, to monitor and analyze the health of that domain, evaluate the root cause of issues, and instantly trigger local orchestrator actions to address the issue, without human involvement, in a reliable, scalable, and extensible way. This vastly reduces monitoring complexity, and ensures service availability and optimum performance.
Now, that is something worth thinking about.