Lots of CSPs are figuring out the best way to implement NFV as the foundation to power a new era of services that can be created and launched rapidly, and more importantly, maintained effectively over their lifecycle.
NFV is the catalyst that creates a sandbox environment for CSPs to experiment with new services and inexpensively improve the number which are successful. But the biggest cost in bringing services to market is the ongoing operational maintenance. Before they come to market, they are often killed due to the cost and/or profitability implications before they are even tested. And that stifles the creativity and service innovation that the market loves.
CSPs are experimenting with the services factory concept because it reduces the time to deploy new networking services that support changing business requirements, enabling new market opportunities and the optimization of ROI. It also lowers the risks associated with roll out, allowing providers to easily trial and evolve a product to determine what best meets the needs of customers, while conforming to a low cost business model.
This model also drives agility and flexibility, so successful services can rapidly be scaled up or down to address changing demands. It speeds innovation by enabling services to be delivered via software on any industry-standard server hardware through an NFV foundation.
The need to buy purpose-built hardware is dropped, supporting pay-as-you-grow concepts that eliminate wasteful over-provisioning. Traditional operational costs can be halved by reducing footprint, power and cooling requirements of equipment and the overall simplification of the roll out and management of network services.
With green shoots in the market, the rigid old world of service lifecycle management is vanishing and being replaced by a new service factory, which uses NFV to flexibly create and launch new services at the speed of light. Engineering is creating the next generation of business and consumer services. But if something goes wrong with those services during the lifecycle, does operations have the New World skills and tools to handle the issues?
Historically, engineering has created the technical product and brought it to market, assembling component parts into a service, and ensuring it will work over multiple infrastructures. Then, on the operational side, workflows are organized that include instantiation, configuration, uninstall, stop, start, heal and a host of other functions.
Testing, installation, configuration, and problem management of network appliances all revolve around manual activities that often require a physical truck roll or a human to run each lifecycle process. But this workflow is becoming outmoded and too heavy because NFV virtualizes the working components and increases the number of services, and their complexity.
As it stands, the cost of managing the new operational service lifecycle can quickly get out of hand, stifling the service innovation that NFV delivers. This New World requires new skills, and today’s operations staff aren’t qualified to be able to understand or fix a problem with a production NFV service. And, highly qualified operations staff who are familiar with NFV are in limited supply and cost a premium. We think there’s a better way.
Services that take care of themselves
Traditionally, engineering runs through a number of rigorous steps to bring an NFV service to production through testing functionality and performance, then preparation for launch, and finally assisting operations with ongoing production maintenance.
With NFV, the traditional job of operations, to diagnose and fix issues, becomes a challenge. The environment is virtual, everything is coded, the service maybe fragmented and hosted at multiple locations in the cloud, and Operations staff no longer have the skillset to keep on top of an increasing number of service variations which grow with the efficiency of the factory.
In reality, the best way forward is for NFV services to have an automated operational response. Network administrators require the ability to define what they want the network to do, and then have an automated management process create the desired state and enforce the policies.
With StratOSS, Accanto are making services smarter. Services that can look after themselves with added intelligence, complimenting a fully integrated DevOps path from design, test and deployment, to operations. By hiding the complexity of the underlying resources, infrastructure, virtual functions, across domains and vendors, service designers can focus on designing the service rather than defining complex workflows for each component.
By removing the need for manual monitoring and resolution handling, operations staff become more effective, the constant interaction between engineering and operations is tighter and more high-touch. Services are continuously monitored and once an issue is identified, automated corrective action is taken. Damaged service components causing faults, are replaced without human interaction and any issues that can’t be automatically fixed, are sent back to Engineering for modification. And so the operational loop continues and resource requirements in both departments are consistently maintained, regardless of demand.