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Service orchestration required to bring all the NFV and SDN complexities into synch
06 October 2014
Service orchestration will be at the heart of managing NFV but it is new and poorly defined. What’s needed is a clear definition that takes into account the number of relationships between components and systems and recognises that service orchestration will be complicated. Co-sponsored feature: Comptel
Simon Osborne: There will be friction between groups because
there is no right answer at the moment
Although some in the industry consider the orchestration of
network function virtualization (NFV) to be already defined,
the reality is that development is still very much in progress.
The traditional standards bodies have been defining building
blocks for many years but in the background, start-ups have
been pressing ahead with development. They are working at two
different paces but trying to collaborate.
"It’s a very exciting time, redefining the
management platforms for these next generation services,
determining what is necessary, while trying to learn from the
mistakes of the past," says Simon Osborne, the CTO for
fulfillment at Comptel. "Common sense and pragmatism in this
approach needs to be applied as well, but there will be
friction between groups as currently there is no right answer.
Comptel sees that as driver for what’s
interesting: change a little bit, transform, but be mindful of
learning from the past. It’s a matter of
addressing the revolution (of services) but through an
"As for what service orchestration is, NFV service
orchestration was just a box a few weeks ago – with
the industry trying to find a way to define it," adds Osborne.
"If you open the box and look at what it really is, the
functions are really traditional and include: order management,
activation, reporting and others - in fact all the elements
we’ve seen in the past. One notable absence is
inventory. In the existing stack, inventory is at the heart but
for NFV and SDN with their more dynamic and hybrid virtual and
physical natures, it seems to be harder to define. The jury is
out on what the role of inventory is within evolving
Osborne draws parallels with previous efforts around active
product catalogues which delivered levels of agility previously
unseen in telecoms, but which relied on one IMS and one SDP.
"We’re seeing the same with SDN and NFV," he says.
"There’s a land grab between the network equipment
manufacturers (NEMs) and the IT infrastructure vendors who are
contending to perform the same functions. The reality is there
will be multiple architectural layers which will have to come
together in order to realise the opex and capex benefits of NFV
However, the promise of NFV and SDN is in the enablement of
temporary services – short-lived propositions that are
flexibly launched and retired. "The focus for Comptel is in the
creation of a management platform that supports temporary
services that will last for minutes, hours, weeks and not just
years," explains Osborne. "That’s very different
to the old style of technology that was conceived around
traditional work order transaction paradigms. This new approach
is sometimes referred to as real-time OSS, and by definition is
a far more dynamic, on-line, personalised and temporary
That challenges OSS platforms in a series of ways and pushes
old models and vendors to get new, high potential services
deployed and live. But beyond that first step of enabling new
services to go live, additional challenges include how to
integrate into other existing processes to monetise and create
value from the new services. For those used to the traditional
approach of create, delete and modify actions, the flexible
nature of new services that are not tied to traditional
functions is a substantial transition.
On the discussion of the role played by existing fulfillment
solutions, they represent a linear way to manage services and
traditionally provided by OSS and IT players. Orchestration is
essentially fulfillment but for a dynamic service environment,
so will the role uncertainty between NEMs and IT vendors lead
to a more defined decoupling of IT from network equipment?
Osborne sees that as an advantage for software providers like
Comptel. "The value proposition Comptel brings is vendor
independence and neutrality around these new plays," he says.
"There is capability in operators’ stacks to
manage multi-vendor services but how do you orchestrate,
deliver and assure them ? A key question is whether a single
orchestration stack is required or whether orchestration is
required down to lower level multiple silos, leveraging the NFV
portfolios provided by IBM, Nokia or others. Is there the
capability to master orchestrate for everything?"
Osborne points out this has never worked in the past and there
has never been an extended management platform from one NEM,
which confidently integrates with and fully utilises every
other vendor inside an operator. He warns the same
fragmentation could still be repeated in NFV and SDN
"The risk is that history will be repeated for SDN and with
NFV. The jury is still out as to whether a single orchestration
layer across these multiple silos will be achieved," he says.
"The reality is there will be different NFV management stacks
and different SDN control stacks and orchestration will be the
glue needed to integrate them and enable the full value of B2B
and consumer services on NFV and SDN."