Virtualization Featured Article

The Data Center Path to NFV Will Be Incremental

May 20, 2016

Software defined networking (SDN) is steadily becoming pervasive, impacting the operations of telcos, service providers, data centers and the enterprise. Technologies, standards and solutions surrounding SDN are still very much evolving and developers are routinely changing the game for all parties concerned.

The data center certainly has unique needs when it comes to implementing SDN and adding network functions virtualization (NFV) to the mix makes things even more complicated. And while NFV has mostly been tied to telcos and communications services providers, it is now proving a worthy methodology for the data center architecture.

A recent Data Center Knowledge article examines the potential impact of NFV in the data center and how data centers can use an incremental, four-step approach to embracing the methodology. The overriding benefit of using NFV in the data center is the high levels of automation and efficiency it enables, an attractive prospect for many aspects of data center administration and management.

“If you step forward in the evolutionary progress of virtualization, Step 1 is what we’re doing with virtual machines,” said Tom Nadeau, an engineer at Brocade, in an interview at the recent OpenStack Summit. Nadeau is responsible for the VNF Manager commercial implementation of the OpenStack Tacker component for staging VNFs on an NFV platform and author of an NFV book due out in August. “OpenStack deploys a virtual machine, and there you have it. If you look at the cost model around that, it’s going to be difficult to make that cost-effective in the long run. Where you need to go is Step 2, which is containers; Step 3, microkernels; Step 4, Platform-as-a-Service.”

Nadeau argues that if data centers want to adopt NFV for deploying services in a similar manner to AWS or a telco, they will need to implement some sort of container system along with minimal bootstrap operating loaders that can handle provisioning and management of servers at startup. OpenStack has this covered via its Razor microkernel, which essentially enables OpenStack deployments on bare metal servers.

Once these changes are made, data centers can move toward PaaS provisioning that enables a single path for all applications, for all customers.

“If you can be part of that heterogeneous PaaS model that has physical elements at the end, and maybe some virtualized functions and then applications running over a message bus in the middle — which is the enterprise application model — it all makes sense,” said Nadeau.

As data centers move toward a microservices and PaaS methodology, they will be able to reap the true benefits of SDN and NFV. The path will be slow with several incremental steps, but will effectively change the entire data center architecture

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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