Author Archives: Jambi Ganbar

If software is eating the world, can we give software some Power Pellets?

Yes, I used to play Pac-Man.  And yes, the title of this blog refers to Marc Andreessen’s now famous quip that “Software is eating the world”.  Marc’s famous statement came out in a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) article published in August 2011.  At the time I imagined software as a yellow Pac-Man running around in a dark maze eating whatever it can while escaping Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde.  The four main antagonists in the game are relentless, but from time to time, when played right, Pac-Man can eat a Power Pellet and then fight its antagonists.

About a year after Marc’s famous WSJ article, Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) was announced. It too started with an article of a sorts (a white paper actually) and our entire Telecommunications industry began its journey from purpose-built boxes to software. VMware has been there from the get-go, helping the Telecommunication industry’s transformation and paving the way for the migration to software. We have provided our Telco customers with a carrier-grade NFV platform and supported them with openness and choices where they matter: our customers can pick their virtualized infrastructure manager of choice, decide on their servers of choice, and most importantly, pick from a massive ecosystem of Virtual Network Functions (VNFs) that have been shown to work on our platform. The ecosystem program we run is called Ready for NFV. It is part of the VMware Ready partner program. Ready for NFV won industry awards and grew into a massive ecosystem encompassing many of the Telecommunication industry traditional and emerging suppliers. Our passion in operating the program has always been helping our partners and our customers with their journey to the world of software.

Today we announced our self-certification extension to the Ready for NFV program. Self-certification is like Power Pellets in Pac-Man – it reverses the roles and lets the player accelerate and, if played right, make it to the next level. We see the self-certification extension to the Ready for NFV program as four Power Pellets to fight the four classical antagonists in our customers’ transformation to software.

  • Choice. Our customers are in different phases of their softwarefication journey. Some customers have been with us since early releases of our platform and many are still joining. This means that our customers operate different versions of our platform and different versions of their virtual network functions. By offering a self-certification extension we help the VNF vendor community verify that any version of their software is ready to quickly be deployed in any version of our customers’ Telco cloud.
  • Agility. We see a beautiful effect in our Communication Service Provider customers journey to NFV and beyond. The first few migration projects take a while and are a learning phase for the organization: processes get tuned, operational aspects are ironed out and sometimes even the procurement process changes. Once this happens, we see a clear hockey-stick effect in VNF deployment which is another way to describe software transformation. With self-certification, we expect to see the hockey-stick appear earlier in the transformation journey since making sure a VNF will work with a vCloud NFV version is so much easier and quicker.
  • Efficiency. The VMware Ready for NFV program has evolved over the last 4 years. These days the program focuses on educating VNF vendors on our platform capabilities.  The process is considered successfully completed once the VNF has passed the rigorous certification tests we operate. We see that our partners want hands-on experience with our platform to follow our test plan and evaluate their readiness. By giving our partners a virtual lab that mirrors our Reference Architecture, we help them better prepare without needing a large hardware installation.
  • Focus. Our Ready for NFV team has probably more experience on-boarding and deploying Virtual Network Functions than any other organization in the world. They already performed more than 120 certifications and have “been there, done that” many times. We wanted to allow our team to really focus on what our partners need the most – guidance when unique problems arise. By providing a self-certification program we can free our resources to help our partners with their unique and hard questions.

The process to use the self-certification program is as easy as one can expect from a software company.  After joining our program our partners will be able to point their browser to a url, download a few artifacts, launch a remote desktop and onboard their VNF into our cloud.  Once the onboarding process is successful, the partner selects the tests to be executed. The tests obviously are automated letting the partner know the progress. Once the tests are complete, the partner can decide on the next steps.

We made our Ready for NFV certification guide very transparent to all our partners. This means that once the tests are complete the partner will see a graphical representation of their success against the certification guide. If all is well, the partner will provide our team with the report bundle. Why don’t we just issue a certification automatically?  We want to ensure that the program quality is maintained which is why an engineer in the Ready for NFV program will be reviewing the results. The same team responsible for creating the Ready for NFV certification guide, to answering partner questions and to collecting requirements from customers will also be the team evaluating the results of the certification.  Quality is not something we are yet ready to completely automate.


Figure 1: Ready for NFV Self-Certification Progress Report

The Telecommunications industry is doubling down on software. In the last 7 years we adopted Virtual Machines as a way to deploy network functions. We are now embracing Containers to further increase the efficiency of software-based Telco workloads. 3GPP standards are written with software in mind such that transitioning from 4G to 5G networks is not possible without software. In the move towards software VMware is committed to supporting our customers to ease and accelerate their transformation. We will continue supplying our customers with Power Pellets so they too can win in their quest to reduce their operational cost and significantly reduce their time to market.  Bon Appetit.

Switzerland of NFV

Our CEO made a controversial statement on the keynote stage at Mobile World Congress last year.  He said: “there will be two kinds of 5G deployments – those who virtualize and those who will fail.”  As I look at the last year in the life of VMware’s Ready for NFV program, I see evidence that a lot of virtual network function vendors agree with our CEO.

VMware Ready for NFV is a functional interoperability program between VNFs and core components of the VMware vCloud NFV platform.  The program exists so that Communication Service Providers (CSPs) can easily deploy innovative services using best-in class VNFs on VMware’s vCloud NFV platform.  We collaborate with our VNF partners to ensure that they understand the expectations that our mutual customers have from a network function deployed on vCloud NFV.

What makes VMware qualified to help VNF vendors prepare for deployment?  We are the Switzerland of NFV.  We have leading global CSPs using our vCloud NFV platform since 2014 and the number of CSPs is continuously growing.  These customers expect from us, as the leader in virtualization, guidance on how to best virtualize their network functions and in return we work closely with them to understand their business and services needs.  This relationship allows us to collect requirements and translate them to product improvements as well provide guidance to our partners.  That guidance is the basis for our Ready for NFV program.  Because of our role as the layer between the VNF and the hardware, be it in virtualizing the compute, network or storage resources, we also understand the underlying hardware very well.  It is like being that country between Italy, France, Austria and Germany – Switzerland.

A good example of a benefit of the Ready for NFV program is the ability for a VNF to be onboarded quickly into one of the two Virtualized Infrastructure Managers (VIMs) we have in our solution and then deployed into the NFVI without manual intervention.  The process of onboarding is sometimes done using a VNF Manager and sometimes, depending on the VNF and the customer, directly into the VIM.  That onboarding process is tremendously efficient when the VNF is, for example, packaged correctly and is cloud-ready.  When the packaging is created well, resources and configuration specific to the VNF are included and are transportable between one installation and the next.

One can summarize the CSP interest when they receive the VNF with the following points:

  • Autonomous VNF Life Cycle Operations – Customers have to be able to install, upgrade and manage the VNF themselves (they may decide not to do so, but that is their decision).
  • Compact – All components required to operate the VNF are packaged together. VNFCs are clearly defined, use unique and specific names and are included in the package.
  • Unambiguous – The VNF package provided must be verifiable in one manner or another.
  • Holistic – The packaged VNF must include all configuration required to deploy a healthy VNF.

We see clear evidence that being the Switzerland of NFV resonates well with customers and VNF partners.  How?  An increasing number of VNF vendors that certified their VNF with VMware vCloud NFV 1.5 are coming back to the lab to certify a newer version of their VNFs against our latest platform version.  We have 61 VNFs in our catalog at the time of publication and a pipeline that is forever growing.  We also see that the established Network Equipment Providers (NEPs) such as Ericsson, Nokia, Huawei, Cisco and ZTE, are steadily increasing the number of VNFs they are bringing to the certification lab. A year ago we had 2 VNFs from Ericsson in the program.  Today we have 9.  That is growth.

As we start field trials of 5G networks, and the race to announce the first commercial deployment is heating up; the whole industry needs to collaborate to deliver a truly pervasive communication technology.  The VMware Ready for NFV program is an example of collaboration and cooperation between vendors to help materialize the successful transformation to 5G.  Being the Switzerland of NFV, we may need to figure out how to virtualize Swiss chocolate.  Until that happens, we are happy to welcome all VNFs from all partners and use cases to our Ready for NFV program.

Production Ready OpenStack Cloud, obviously.

My team just announced a new OpenStack distribution for our NFV platform – VMware Integrated OpenStack-Carrier Edition.  It is a great solution for our customers looking to benefit from a carrier-grade Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV) platform while leveraging OpenStack to run their Virtual Network Functions (VNFs) workloads.  The new distribution is our response to customers asking for a robust and proven NFV environment on which they can monetize NFV services, while also supporting their developers with OpenStack APIs.  We’ve packaged the distribution with our current NFV platform to deliver to market VMware vCloud NFV OpenStack Edition. With vCloud NFV-OpenStack, developers can “benefit” from the same Service Level Agreements (SLAs) that the operations team commits to in order to actually generate revenue.  It is THAT solid.  How is VMware able to offer such a robust solution? By the time you are finished reading this blog post the answer will be clear.

VMware is strongly committed to providing our customers with the flexibility to choose the best Virtualized Infrastructure Manager (VIM) within the vCloud NFV platform to meet their business priorities. One of our VIMs is VMware vCloud Director which is loved by many of our customers already in production. The other VIM is VMware Integrated OpenStack (VIO)-Carrier Edition. VMware has had a DefCore-compliant OpenStack distribution since 2015, and our latest release is an OpenStack 2017.01 Octata-based distribution. If a customer decides to use VIO-CE as the VIM, it provides the customer the best of both worlds: they can select their VIM based on the APIs they want to use to deploy NFV services, and be assured that it has been fully integrated, tested, and certified with our NFV infrastructure. We also incorporated new VIO-CE-focused test cases into our VNF interoperability program, VMware Ready for NFV, and are actively testing interoperability between leading VNFs and both VIMs.  To this day, 21 of our 43 Ready for NFV certified VNFs ) already support earlier versions VMware Integrated OpenStack, and will be re-certified on VIO-CE as soon as the code goes GA.  Our VNF partners are always given the option to choose which VIM in vCloud NFV they want to test their VNFs with, so having 21 partners supporting VMware Integrated OpenStack is a testament to their own customers interest in OpenStack.

With the introduction of our vCloud NFV-OpenStack, we are updating the Ready for NFV program scope to provide our VNF partners with a way to make sure that they are benefiting from the new carrier-specific capabilities we have introduced in VIO-CE.  The new tests also help communication service providers in using the new capabilities as soon as they install the new distribution.  In essence, a production-ready OpenStack environment to run revenue-generating network services is a reality.  Obviously.

A few of the new VIO-CE features that we added to the VMware Ready for NFV program scope are highlighted below.

  • Multi-tenancy and VNF resource reservation – customers that are used to the abstraction layers available in vCloud Director love splitting their physical data centre into purpose built-constructs. They tend to carve out virtual data centres to various VNFs using the Organization Virtual Data Center (OvDC) available in vCloud Director. OpenStack does not have an equivalent construct since data centers are broken down into projects and resources are not limited to specific virtual data centers.  Typically, resources are allocated based on first-come, first-served approach. Well, with VIO-CE, we introduce a new concept called Tenant Virtual Data Center. In the updated Ready for NFV program we are looking to test that a Tenant Virtual Data Center (Tenant vDC) can host a VNF and ensure strong resource isolation so that one workload does not infringe on the other. The benefit of this function is that the network provider can deliver Service Level Agreements (SLAs)-based services on shared infrastructure without worrying if the resources assigned to the VNF will be available at all times.
  • Dynamic Resource Scaling – one of the benefits of transitioning workloads from dedicated hardware to software is the ability to quickly provide the virtualized function with more hardware resources if the function needs them. There are two ways to scale resources: scale-out and scale-up.  In our work with VNF partners we see that scaling-out in response to workload demand is well supported. This method is somewhat limited as it creates another instance of the VNF component that requires the same amount of resources that are already being consumed. The ability to provide a finer grain control of resources in a running VNF is realized when resizing a live network function. This live resizing of a VNF component, by adding the appropriate required resources to the running VNF without the need to reboot the component, is supported by VIO-CE and is obviously tested in the Ready for NFV program scope
  • Advanced Networking – There are several advanced networking capabilities that are introduced in VIO-CE that are important for the NFV use case and that are covered by our program.  For example, the ability to attach various types of networking interfaces to a VNF component using neutron is crucial.  We see this type of functionality as especially of interest to data plane intensive workloads.  In some cases, the VNF component is looking for a direct pass-through interface directly to the physical Network Interface Card (NIC) while also using some virtualized interfaces.  Data plane traffic typically uses the direct pass-through path while management and control plane interfaces are happy to use our VMXNET3 para-virtualized network interface.  This is an obvious operational use case that we translated to our Ready for NFV test plan.  We also have seen use cases where the VNF component is using VLAN tags to scale the number of virtual interfaces.  This is especially useful for NFV use cases such as virtual routers or Packet Gateway.  The ability of the VNF component to tag traffic with a VLAN is also tested in our Ready for NFV program.

One of the nice things in a modular architecture, is the ability to change modules.  VMware customers with a vCloud NFV environment can experiment with OpenStack alongside their production setup.  In fact, they do not need to put all their eggs in one basket and can experiment with VIO-CE in the lab while continuing to run their production workloads using vCloud Director. With an ever-increasing number of VNF partners supporting VIO-CE, our customers also have a production ready OpenStack cloud.


Announcing VMware vCloud NFV 2.0 – Getting There Faster

With more than 80 production deployments across more than 45 communication service providers (CSPs), you can safely say that we have gained significant real-world experience in deploying and supporting our customers in rolling out NFV platforms, creating new services, and operating these services.  Today we announce the new version of our VMware vCloud NFV platform, which represents the culmination of this experience and our ongoing commitment to supporting our service provider customers in reaching their business goals. Continue reading

How To Go from Zero to 360 with vCloud NFV and OpenStack

The Tesla Model S has a mode called “Ludicrous mode” that allows the driver to reach 60 miles per hour (about 96 km/h) in just 2.8 seconds. That ability to wow drivers and passengers in 2.8 seconds is impressive, but then what? How do you get to 160 mph? On the German Autobahn, 60 miles per hour is considered slow and “please move over to the right lane” speed. The last time I was in a car on the Autobahn, my friend drove a BMW M5 at 260 km/h (around 160 miles per hour).  That takes a completely different level of instrumentation, focus and capabilities than the first 2.8 seconds. If we had our way, we would have combined the acceleration of the Tesla, with BMWs reliability, comfort, high-end speed, availability (wait until next year for a car?) and the total control my driver friend had to maintain in order to drive the car for an hour at 160 mph.

Operator networks and the services they deliver are a lot like cars. For starters, we want to be able to deploy a new service quickly. This is part of the drive and the benefits of Network Functions Virtualization (NFV). Instead of physically rolling out boxes to a data center, connecting them to each other with cables, paying for their cooling and electricity for every new services we want to offer, if we just virtualize the network, we should be able to deploy new services with a few clicks. Obviously, once these services are deployed, we have to manage the virtualized network and provide high service reliability and availability. If something does go wrong, we’d like to rapidly identify the root cause and resume normal operations as quickly as possible.

At the OpenStack Summit in Barcelona, we are taking attendees on this ride.  VMware is demonstrating deployment and 360-degrees monitoring of a Virtual IMS network with OpenStack on vCloud NFV. Continue reading

VMware’s vCloud NFV is OpenStack…and a whole lot more!

About twice a week I find myself having the same conversation: “This Virtual Network Function (VNF) works on OpenStack” someone says.  My response has not changed in a while: “Great, vCloud NFV is also OpenStack.”

At that point in the conversation the trajectory is never predictable, but always a lot of fun. As if I needed more convincing that the industry is confused about what OpenStack is and is not, I was lucky enough to present a session at VMworld explaining the role of VMware Integrated OpenStack (or VIO as we typically refer to it) in VMware vCloud NFV. The questions we received at the end of the presentation were a testament that we need to clarify a few things. Continue reading