Home Articles Network Function Virtualization: Rebuilding Network Functions and Open Architectures

Network Function Virtualization: Rebuilding Network Functions and Open Architectures

The Network Function Virtualization (NFV) trend is making substantial progress and has gained wide support across the industry. The concept of NFV is driven largely by the convergence of cloud computing and traditional telecommunications networks, increasingly powerful chips, and the diversification of service demands. This document describes the changes to network architecture that will be brought about by NFV. It also explains how SoftCOM, Huawei’s vision for future architecture, implements this trend.

The telecommunications industry is evolving from proprietary equipment networks to IT-based data center networks that employ technologies such as cloud computing, software-defined networking (SDN) and NFV, Internetized operations, and big data analytics to provide a variety of ICT services to end users.

With the SoftCOM strategy, Huawei is reshaping the architecture, functions, services, and operational and maintenance modes of telecommunications networks. NFV will play a vital role in this process. Based on the concept of NFV, NE nodes under the SoftCOM architecture are classified into a three-level structure that features horizontal convergence and vertical de-coupling. The three levels are basic hardware, open cloud platform, and service software. There are also new design requirements put forward for NFV service targets.

Figure 1: Horizontal Converged ICT Unified Cloud Platform
  • The biggest change in the basic hardware platform is the introduction of programmable features. New hardware, including forwarding equipment and computation and storage platforms, must provide programmable logic kernels and easy-to-use application interfaces while also guaranteeing performance. This can implement resource pooling regardless of the service. Programmable hardware will gradually replace proprietary hardware in the long term. This process depends on various factors, such as the function attributes, performance requirements, and the cost of NE nodes. In the SoftCOM architecture, hardware platforms are developed based on high-performance programmable chips. Service-specific accelerator modules are provided as well to ensure balance between functions and performance in different deployment environments.
  • Above the basic hardware, virtualization and cloud computing platform software is loaded. It functions as the operating system for managing and scheduling computation, storage, and network resources on telecommunications networks as well as providing an open operating environment for upper-layer service functions. The cloud platform software must be highly open and able to provide a healthy ecosystem and support a heterogeneous network environment that accommodates various types of hardware. The open source project OpenStack is a mature and widely used cloud platform. Based on OpenStack, FusionSphere Cloud OS in the SoftCOM architecture encapsulates and releases the open source code of OpenStack for commercial use and also provides enhanced features to meet requirements for reliability, security, performance, and application experience, ensuring the openness, stability, and efficiency of the NFV architecture.
  • NFV de-couples hardware, middleware, and software, which allows upper-layer services and functions to act as software modules that can be flexibly integrated and deployed. Based on the evolution target of operators, the SoftCOM architecture divides the future network into four logical function clouds to implement service operating, service control, global service, and edge service. This target architecture can fully support traditional telecommunications services on live networks as well as the ICT services of the future. The introduction of management and network orchestration (MANO) and open platforms will revolutionize network operations, administration, and management.

CloudEdge, one of the most important NFV use cases, aims to virtualize all network components in edge,

CloudEdge, which aims to virtualize all network components in edge, such as EPC, CDN, and BRAS, is an innovative solution that Huawei developed for NFV implementation. The Huawei CloudEdge solution is composed of hardware infrastructure, an operating system, network APPs, and MANO. This one-stop solution makes it possible to implement NFV and enlarge the business scope for operators using an easy approach.

With the CloudEdge solution, network elements and applications are implemented as a set of virtual resources including computing, storage, and networking capabilities instead of proprietary hardware. This mechanism enables on-demand resource allocation rather than fixed occupation of hardware in a conventional way. Based on Huawei Cloud OS FusionSphere, CloudEdge can ensure carrier-grade performance and reliability for users.

Huawei is committed to helping carriers succeed with its innovative network equipment and technologies. NFV can drastically shorten the technological innovation cycle, accelerate new service launch speed, reduce operation and maintenance costs, eliminate the closeness of traditional telecommunications networks, build an open ecological environment, and promote an open industrial culture. NFV will help carriers face the challenges of accelerated ICT convergence and the slowed development of traditional telecommunications networks. NFV has already undergone proof-of-concept tests as well as scenario testing. The next step is to work with carriers to transform technological innovation into business innovation and to explore the business value of NFV.