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Oracle Communications Collaborates with Intel, Showing End-to-End Service and Network Function Orchestration

By Peter Bernstein March 26, 2015

The transitioning by service providers from appliance-based network functions to a virtualized, software-based model, aka network function virtualization (NFV) is picking up steam. The reasons are simple in theory, but as with so much of transforming network infrastructures they take time. Communications Service Providers (CSPs) have a growing sense of urgency to be more agile in deploying high-performance services, and to do so with lower operational costs.

The challenge for NFV solutions providers is that nascent capabilities have had difficulty in proving they can deliver the same speeds and performance as appliance-based capabilities.  However, as collaboration between Oracle Communications and Intel is demonstrating those days could be numbered.  Leveraging Enhanced Platform Awareness in OpenStack, Oracle Communications has delivered the industry’s first successful demonstration of carrier-grade network performance in a virtualized environment.

A project, led by Oracle and using the Intel Open Network Platform (ONP), demonstrates that CSPs can realize more of the promise of NFV.  In the description of the demonstration, Oracle explains: “Specifically, the initiative proves that by intelligently directing network activity to the Intel® processor, CSPs will have more capabilities in software that were previously limited to hardware. In turn, this means that CSPs could maintain service quality levels and develop new offers for customers as soon as CSPs begin to migrate their network functions to the data center.”

“This initiative does more than just optimize Oracle Communications products for the Intel® Open Network Platform,” said Liam Maxwell, vice president of products for Oracle Communications. “It takes the theory of delivering carrier-grade capabilities in a commercial data center and turns it into reality. We’ve proven that we can orchestrate services and network functions from the top of the management and orchestration (MANO) stack all the way to individual network processors, and we can do it at scale.”

“The Intel® Open Network Platform server combines industry-leading server architecture with open source software to enable quicker delivery of NFV solutions. Our work with Oracle demonstrates how a powerful server can act as the catalyst for end-to-end NFV orchestration,” said John Healy, general manager, Software Defined Networking Division, Network Platforms Group, Intel Corporation.

Orchestration on display

 So what is being demonstrated?

The specifics are interesting.  Oracle Communications optimized specific products for the Intel ONP using OpenStack open source infrastructure management software and its Enhanced Platform Awareness capabilities. The optimized products are part of Oracle’s orchestration framework, including Oracle Communications Network Service Orchestration Solution.

The demonstration highlights the following:

  • The ability to direct the Intel platform to dynamically establish data center resource pools that mimic the specialized characteristics of a network appliance (such as large memory pages)
  • The orchestration software can then route the work to the correct pool, based on each function’s unique needs.
  • This orchestration activity can work for any network equipment vendor’s interface. It thereby preserves the CSP community’s requirement to support multi-vendor environments.

The significance of this in terms of those goals of agility and lower cost should not be underestimated—with the emphasis on the criticality of orchestrating network functions at the processor-attribute level, being the key.  In the demo,  Oracle Communications solutions optimize performance of the Intel XeonTM E5-2600 v3 processor, which is built specifically for networking requirements. The implementation lives up to CSP needs for transitioning to NFV by providing the network functions with the performance and reliability found in network appliances.

“NFV resource orchestrators need awareness of infrastructure inventory and capability as well as network function requirements in order to match the two for optimal cost and performance. Oracle and Intel have achieved noteworthy platform awareness with this project. Intel contributed broadly to the OpenStack Enhanced Platform Awareness Initiative, and now Oracle is the first to actually harness this capability as a function of its intelligent orchestration framework,” said Dana Cooperson, research director, head of Telecoms Virtualization Research, Analysys Mason.

Virtualization and awareness when it comes to CSP operations go hand in glove.  Service delivery in general involves a number of complex actions that must be orchestrated.  Appliance-based solutions have been the path of choice because they have the horse power and reliability that CSPs must have.  Showing that a virtualized environment can speed the processes and do so at lower costs is just what a very demanding customer base is looking for before committing fully to a network architecture overhaul.  As noted, and as this demonstration shows, progress on NFV becoming foundational in next generation CSP networks is accelerating, and the promise of NFV can be realized and optimized. 

Edited by Dominick Sorrentino
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