A Virtual Revolution

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NFV’s Impact on Network Operations

With the communications industry undergoing an unprecedented level of change, the impact of software-defined networking (SDN), and network functions virtualization (NFV) on operational support systems is considerable. These technologies are forcing a rapid evolution of operating support systems (OSS) into real-time, dynamic systems designed to support dynamic, rapidly changing networks. But if the OSS systems of today are not enhanced or augmented in some way, they will not meet the needs of the networks of the future. The inability to operationalize SDN and NFV will therefore impact the ability of service providers to unlock the benefits and monetize these technologies.

NFV is expected to deliver significant benefits to service providers including:
• Improved service agility, including improvements in both customer experience and service enablement
• Reduced equipment expenditure (CapEx)
• Improved operational efficiency (OpEx)

Initially, the focus of NFV was on OpEx and CapEx reduction, but service providers are increasingly looking at the ability to improve service flexibility as the key driver for NFV adoption. The improvements to service agility address 2 key areas: improvements to customer experience, providing customers with services they desire with high quality and reliability; and improvements in service enablement, improving the ability to create, adapt, and implement new revenue-generating services that customers want.

Evolutionary Change

NFV and SDN create highly dynamic networks that can potentially exist in a constant state of flux as the networks dynamically reconfigure or change in response to automated parameters. This radical shift is one of the key catalysts for the evolution of OSS. And as NFV and SDN achieve widespread adoption within the network, the increasingly dynamic nature of the network means operational systems need to adapt and change to match that need.

In phase 1 of NFV, the focus is set on ensuring that the new virtualized network functions (VNFs) perform at least as well as the physical network functions (PNFs) that they are replacing. From a technical perspective, this is an important step, as these VNFs are the key building blocks for NFV adoption and the virtualization of the network.

During this phase, the operational issues related to NFV are simple. Typically, the VNF is instantiated on a dedicated server, in a predefined location, often with a dedicated team whose role it is to operate and maintain that function. At this most basic level, the VNFs do not require complex orchestration, and many of the systems deployed are managed using simple element management systems (EMS), cloud management systems (CMS) or VNF managers (VNF-M).

Also in this phase, it is possible to implement NFV without a complex orchestration function because of the simplicity and static nature of the VNFs. Essentially, phase 1 is the replication of the physical network with a virtual version. And because the number of network elements is small, the EMS and VNF managers are sufficient. But as the number of VNFs and the complexity of the network increases, the need arises for a dedicated NFV orchestrator

In phase 2 of NFV, there is a requirement to implement highly scalable NFV orchestration systems that can manage the more advanced requirements of a VNF network, including the instantiation and management of many dynamic VNFs. In this phase, scalability becomes more important to service providers.

In addition, as virtualization increases in the network, the need to support multi-vendor NFV environments increases. As a result, multi-vendor-capable, vendor-agnostic NFV-orchestrators becomes essential.

Paving the Way to an Agile OSS

Amdocs’ approach to supporting NFV/SDN and addressing the service-related factors is evolutionary rather than revolutionary. Accordingly, the best plan is to develop a modular, “agile” blueprint whereby a number of new components are added to create a next generation of OSS.

Below are 5 key new capabilities that create an Agile OSS. These are:
1. Virtualized service resource and lifecycle management (NFV orchestration)
2. Cross-domain service orchestration for complex orders (order orchestration)
3. Automated hybrid service design
4. Real-time topology, network and service visualization (real-time OSS)
5. Service and customer configuration

Agile OSS is the blueprint that incorporates the capabilities required to support both existing and next-generation network technologies and services, providing an evolutionary path from today’s OSS. Agile OSS is about taking existing OSS to NFV/SDN and beyond. n

Justin Paul is Head of OSS Marketing at Amdocs. He has over 15 years of experience in telecommunications and information technology, developing new propositions, leading complex development projects, technical team management, and delivering performance improvements. Justin has previously worked with companies like Airwave, Alcatel-Lucent, and Nokia. For more information, please visit http://nfvreadyoss.com.

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