Open Source, Carrier Grade Platform for NFV

OPNFV (Open Platform for Network Function Virtualization – www.opnfv.org) has set out to become the base infrastructure layer for running virtual network functions, much like Linux is the base operating system for a large number of network devices.

Virtual network functions (VNF) like virtual routers, virtual firewalls, virtual web security appliances, etc., require a base infrastructure to run on – the NFV infrastructure. At a minimum you need a hypervisor, a virtual forwarder to connect individual VNF instances, a network controller to control all of the virtual forwarders in the physical network, and a VM manager to lifecycle-manage the VNFs.

Most, if not all, of the individual components you need to piece together the infrastructure to run VNFs exist today. Many individual NFV infrastructure components are built and developed by a series of community-driven open source projects, such as KVM (as hypervisor), Open vSwitch (as virtual forwarder), OpenDaylight (as network controller), and OpenStack (as VM controller). But a collection of individual components does not automatically give you a working system. Creating a NFV infrastructure means creating a whole that is greater than sum of the parts. Or, put simply, creating a working NFV infrastructure layer translates into a systems integration effort.

While the individual NFV infrastructure components are all created in open community efforts, the actual integration has so far remained a “private” task. You either had to do it yourself, contract someone to do it for you, or buy a readily integrated system from some vendor. On top of that, the systems integration effort isn’t a one-time task. Virtualization is a quickly evolving technology area. Every other month new revisions or alternate options of components become available, requiring an ongoing evaluation and additional investment into systems integration to maintain the NFV infrastructure layer.

OPNFV set out to change this by turning this ongoing integration effort from a private task into an open community task. With OPNFV, the goal is to do it once, in the open, for everyone – NFV infrastructure as a commodity. If successful, OPNFV will provide for NFV infrastructure what Linux provides so well for network elements today: a base operating environment which is common across vendors and deployments enabling you to run the set of functions you require for your service.

In short: OPNFV is “systems integration as an open community effort”.

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