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.