SDN FEATURE NEWS

Service Chaining Seems Important, but What Is It Again?

By Paula Bernier December 06, 2013

I must admit, I had never before heard of the concept of service chaining, at least not that I can remember. But I started hearing a whole lot about it at the beginning of this year, and that conversation continues.

Service chaining enables network operators to create what are essentially catalogs of network resources and related policies (like QoS parameters and bandwidth) to which applications can be applied as they move onto the network. At least that’s the definition of service chaining according to Magnus Furustam, vice president of product area core and IMS at Ericsson, with whom I spoke in February at Mobile World Congress.

Ericsson in February introduced the Ericsson Cloud System, which will package some of the company’s existing applications and equipment in a virtualized format, and pair them with an OpenStack-based KVM hypervisor called Ericsson Cloud Executive Environment. Existing parts of the solution include the Ericsson Blade System and the Ericsson Smarter Service Router, as well as the company’s operations support system, which under this new solution is being called the Ericsson Cloud Manager. The company also has been developing an app store of telecom applications as part of the offer.

But it was probably Juniper Networks that first turned me on to the whole service chaining thing. In detailing its SDN strategy in mid January, Bob Muglia, the executive vice president of Juniper’s software solutions division, laid out four steps to that strategy. Please make special note of step No. 3, which includes a definition of service chaining that sounds a bit different from that of Ericsson’s.

Step 1: Centralize network management, analytics and configuration functionality to provide a single master that configures all networking devices. This lowers operating costs and allows customers to gain business insight from their networks. Juniper Networks Junos Space applications can enable customers to begin taking this step today.

Step 2: Extract networking and security services from the underlying hardware by creating service virtual machines. This enables network and security services to independently scale using industry-standard x86 hardware based on the needs of the solution. This next generation of programmable networks will be introduced with the JunosV App Engine, scheduled to be available in Q1 2013. This step is supported by Juniper Software Advantage. 

Step 3: Introduce a centralized controller that enables multiple network and security services to connect in series across devices within the network. This is called SDN Service Chaining – using software to virtually insert services into the flow of network traffic. Service chaining functionality is crudely accomplished in today’s physical world using separate network and security devices. With SDN Service Chaining, networks can dynamically respond to the needs of the business. This step will dramatically reduce the time, cost and risk for customers to design, test and deliver new network and security services. Juniper Networks anticipates delivering SDN Service Chaining functionality in 2014 utilizing the SDN controller technology acquired from Contrail, together with the evolution of the JunosV App Engine.

Step 4: Optimize the usage of network and security hardware to deliver high performance. While steps one through three enable new network and security capabilities, optimized network and security hardware will continue to deliver 10 times or better performance for critical networking functions than can be accomplished in software alone. The combination of optimized hardware together with SDN Service Chaining allows customers to build the best possible networks.

Juniper MX Series and SRX Series products will evolve to support tomorrow’s software-based Service Chaining architecture, assuring customers that investments made today can take advantage of the new capabilities delivered by SDN now and in the future.




Edited by Blaise McNamee

Executive Editor, TMC

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