Adapting Your Service Assurance Framework for Network Function Virtualization
In the IT operations sector, we are beginning to hear more and more about network function virtualization (NFV). NFV is a network architecture design concept that holds the potential to transform the industry while offering the promise of reduced CAPEX and OPEX.
But to truly realize the benefits of NFV architecture, it is essential that it complements your overarching service assurance framework. Let’s take a look at exactly what constitutes NFV and then delve into its implications to service assurance.
Breaking Down NFV & Service Assurance Frameworks
Network function virtualization expands upon the technologies of IT virtualization to provide a revolutionary new way to deliver and operate network services. It removes the coupling between the underlying hardware and the network functions they provide. Instead, NFV architectures rely on network software that can run on standardized commodity hardware.
Here are the key elements of NFV in a service assurance framework:
- The software implementation of NFV network functions are the building blocks that are deployed to run on commodity hardware. These are known as virtual network functions (VNFs).
- The hardware and components that provide the environment for the VNFs are collectively known as the NFV infrastructure (NFVI).
- Overlaying a management and orchestration framework provides the capability to configure and operate the VNFs and NFVI.
At a practical level, delivering a usable service consists of assembling a sequence of VNF blocks. This process is known as service chaining. Service chains are deployed on the NFVI, a process accomplished using the orchestration layer.
The primary goal of NFV is to consolidate and deliver the components needed to support a networking infrastructure that is totally independent of the underlying hardware.
Benefits of NFV
Because NFV can bring about vast efficiencies in operations along with reduced overall costs, the advantages are potentially profound.
As IT operations teams know, the ability to deploy services rapidly as business needs arise is key to delivering time-to-market value. NFVs provide a huge advantage when addressing new market opportunities as they can easily be tweaked to meet the changing needs of the business and ramped up or down as demand changes.
From a cost perspective, the benefits of NFV architecture are equally advantageous. Removing the need to purchase proprietary, purpose-built hardware reduces CAPEX and frees the business from being tied to specific vendors. OPEX is also reduced due to the simplified deployment and management of network services. Less hardware means fewer potential points of failure. Further, the ability to manage services dynamically reduces the tendency to over-provision resources.
Optimizing Your Service Assurance Framework
At the end of the day, all that matters is the availability and performance of services supported by NFV. This is why it is essential to have a carefully worked out service assurance strategy prior to transitioning to the NFV architecture paradigm:
- To accommodate NFV, the service assurance framework must provide a holistic view of the entire service delivery supply chain. It must enable a top-to-bottom view of the delivery stack, encompassing hardware components, the virtualized environment and the services software.
- IT infrastructure monitoring is the foundation of effective service assurance, so it’s essential to have a monitoring approach that focuses on the right kind of information to gather from the NFV.
- To ensure quality, the service assurance framework needs to have the ability to interface with the physical and virtual components that comprise NFV in order to obtain telemetry, configuration and performance information.
Key Trends to Consider
NFV implementations bring about a new level of complexity, and along with that comes a larger volume of available data. These days, service assurance frameworks that provide AIOps (artificial intelligence for IT operations) capabilities are necessary to effectively monitor and manage the increased amount of information.
When service degradation or outages do occur, service assurance frameworks need to work with the orchestration layer of the NFV. This is key to exploiting the rapid service creation capabilities of the NFV in order to restore services and reduce the impact to the business and its customers.
As new virtual services are brought online, legacy systems continue to persist and deliver value. The service assurance framework must take this into account and be able to manage, monitor and administer the hybrid infrastructure consisting of both NFV and legacy components.
Service assurance frameworks must accommodate the ability to ascertain the business impact of any issues in the infrastructure, including detailed service level agreements.
Frameworks that provide a clear picture of how business services are delivered in the hybrid NFV/legacy infrastructure are essential to helping IT operations teams understand the real-world impact of issues as they occur.