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How APIs Are Helping Move NFV, Fungible Networks, Forward

By Paula Bernier April 07, 2016

As anyone with even a passing interest in networking by now knows, networks at both the enterprise and service provider levels are undergoing significant transformation. Those changes put software front and center in an effort to make networks and the organizations that rely upon them more agile by allowing for the expedited introduction of new capabilities and services, and making the most efficient use of network resources.

Two of the most important trends in this new software-centric networking world are APIs, or application programming interfaces, and NFV, or network function virtualization.

APIs have been described as the bridges that connect software together. And as I mentioned in INTERNET TELEPHONY magazine’s recent cover story on APIs, Forrester Research calls the application programming interface the poster child of digital transformation. Indeed, that’s why TMC has launched the All About the API event, which will take place July 19 through 21 in Las Vegas.


NFV, meanwhile, involves instantiating specific network functions – such as a firewall or a session border controller, as just to examples – in software. That software needs to run on hardware, of course, but delivering this network functionality as a software-only solution allows the network operator to run that virtual network function (or VNF) on the hardware of their choice (which can be industry-standard hardware, making the cost of the total network function much more affordable and flexible).

There’s also a tie-in between APIs and NFV in that application programming interfaces can serve as the bridge between legacy and NFV networks, allowing network operators to combine existing services with their new virtualized services. Enabling this kind of gradual migration to new technologies is important considering communications service providers need to continue supporting existing services, and want to squeeze more value out of their existing network investments, during their transformations.

An April 2015 article in Ericsson Review magazine by Alan Kavanagh talks about how OpenStack and NFV relate to similar areas – virtualization, REST-based APIs, and providing fast large-scale services independent of underlying hardware. NFV aims to define an architecture and a set of interfaces so that physical network functions, like routers, firewalls, CDNs and telco applications, can be transformed from software applications designed to run on specific dedicated hardware into decoupled applications containers, generic servers, or virtual machines, he says. OpenStack, he adds, addresses service provisioning and virtualization by providing an open source software service framework that is API-driven and pluggable, enabling public and private clouds to be quickly deployed and managed effectively.

“The transformation to VNF services and deployment scenarios needs an API framework, and OpenStack is a suitable candidate,” Kavanagh continues. “However, to ensure carrier-grade service and support for provisioning of NFV services, some extensions to

the set of APIs are needed, and the concept as a whole needs to be embraced.”

Meanwhile, the Blue Planet division of Ciena talks about how open APIs sit atop its solution to transform the network into an easy-to-use, programmable resource.

“Customers and partners can develop their own applications, and integrate them with existing OSSs and other critical software systems,” the company says. “Blue Planet supports a suite of open northbound APIs for service management and orchestration over multiple domains and across the WAN.”

Edited by Maurice Nagle

Executive Editor, TMC

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