I have spent the past two days at the SDN & OpenFlow World Congress in Bad Homburg Germany listening to both operators and network vendors talk about Software Defined Networking and Network Functions Virtualization. This was a milestone event for NFV, as the event last year really kicked off the efforts to create the ETSI NFV ISG to help guide the development of NFV and accelerate implementation progress. All of the operators at the event were determined that they would build a network of the future that heavily relied on NFV and SDN to gain cost efficiencies as well as significant service velocity.
Procera is a big believer in this assertion, so much in fact that we decided to accept the challenge thrown out by the conference and some of our customers to prove that we actually can deliver on more than just “IPE on a server”. As part of the NFV showcase at the event, which was sponsored by EANTC, we went through a test plan sponsored by ETSI and executed by EANTC that focused on Provisioning, Portability, and Elasticity. In this test, there were various test cases that were executed that did more than just verify that you could run your software on a server – which is how some people are treating NFV. NFV is far more than just running on off-the-shelf hardware (which Procera has done for years), it is how you can operate in a virtualized environment and deliver higher value than on specialized hardware, and how you can use this to allow the operator to be more agile in their network deployments.
At the event itself, Procera was demonstrating live migration of virtual instances of our PacketLogic products from one server to another (although they were admittedly quite small servers!) in the network configuration below:
In the demonstration, we were running ~970Mbps of traffic through these small Intel Xeon i5 servers (at barely 50% CPU load BTW), and we migrated the live instance from one of the servers to the alternate using VMWare ESX, and was able to completely migrate the virtual PacketLogic instance in anywhere from 3 seconds to just under one minute (depending on CPU and bandwidth availability).
To be clear – what that means is that we took the entire PacketLogic instance (state tables, statistics, rules, shaping policies, traffic accounting, and LiveView) and moved it from one system to another. All of the applications that were running at that time were still recognized by the system, no loss of billing information, and the traffic resumed.
This is a huge leap forward for IPE technology, as it allows network operators so much flexibility in how and where they deploy our solutions in their network. I could write for days (and will soon in an upcoming whitepaper) on how even this single test case can benefit network operators AND their subscribers, but I will call a few of them out.
1) Virtual Probe Applications: Procera’s Dynamic LiveView application has already won some awards, but imagine having the ability to deploy a probe at a moment’s notice if network issues occur, determine root cause, resolve the issue, and then migrate the probe to another location. No hardware installation or license maneuvers required.
2) Disaster Recovery: At the event, NTT gave a presentation on how the aftermath of the Fukushima incident overstretched their network, and how what they really needed was a network that they could dynamically allocate resources to handle extraordinary (not to mention peak hour) events when network behavior changed dramatically due to uncontrollable events. Need more processing power for your IPE because there is a local issue? Just spin up a new instance without needing to buy or install hardware!
3) Floating Instances to handle network outages: Whether due to hardware failures, network re-routes, fiber cuts, or any other of the myriad of things that go wrong on networks on a regular basis, the ability to move IPE instances to where they are needed in the network due to the changes in traffic patterns where a portion of the network is now operating at capacity when it should not be.
This is just a single example of what we can now offer with NFV solutions. Stay tuned for more to come.