Lean NFV movement aims to cut complexity, speed adoption

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The movement was started at the recent Linux Foundation Open Networking Summit in San Jose.

‘Lean NFV’ was led by a trio of vendors and academics who want to cut the complexity and speed the adoption of NFV.

Sylvia Ratnasamy, Associate Professor of Computer Science, UC Berkeley and co-founder and CTO, Nefeli Networks; Scott Shenker, Professor in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences Department at  UC Berkeley and co-founder, Nefeli Networks;  and Constantine Polychronopoulous, VP & CTO, telco/NTV, VMware, launched the movement with a whitepaper and they’re urging others to join.

A group of operators published the initial whitepaper that kicked off the original network function virtualisation (NFV) movement at the SDN and OpenFlow World Congress in 2012.

Growing pains

The new Lean NFV paper notes: “All new technologies have growing pains, particularly those that promise revolutionary change, so the community has waited patiently for NFV solutions to mature.

“However, the foundational NFV whitepaper is now over six years old, yet the promise of NFV remains largely unfulfilled, so it is time for a frank reassessment of our past efforts.”

The key problem, the authors say, is that current NFV efforts “are drowning in a quicksand of complexity,” meaning that solutions are complex to deploy “because they are too closely coupled to how the rest of the infrastructure is managed”.

The authors also note that the onboarding new virtualised network functions (VNFs) is “extraordinarily time-consuming” because VNF developers were “never given clear and practical guidelines for designing VNFs that can gracefully co-exist with general NFV management solutions”.

The paper warns that complexity will get worse over time, rather than improve, unless something changes. The authors say the industry must “completely rethink” the design of NFV solutions, but add that this doesn’t have to mean throwing out all previous efforts.

“The Lean NFV approach should be seen as a complement to some of the existing open-source efforts,” they say.

Introducing the KV store

The paper lays out a new Lean NFV approach that aims to give VNF vendors, orchestration developers and network operators a clear path forward towards “a more interoperable and innovative future for NFV”.

The approach centres around the NFV manager, the computational infrastructure and the VNFs, and specifically the way they are woven together into an overall system.

The paper says: “We believe that rather than standardising on all-encompassing architectures or adopting large and complicated codebases, the NFV movement should focus exclusively on simplifying these three points of integration, leaving all other aspects of NFV designs open for innovation.

“To this end, we advocate adding a fourth element to the NFV solutions, a key-value (KV) store, that serves as a universal point of integration.”


Download the whitepaper