One of the most popular articles written last year about Cyan’s Blue Planet software noted that several of Cyan’s software engineers have video game development experience. That article, “Cyan Hires Video Game Developers for POW! BANG! ZOOM!”, discussed Cyan’s history of hiring developers with artistic, interactive media and even gaming backgrounds, and how that approach contributes to making Cyan’s software fundamentally different from other solutions on the market. To share a little more insight on this, and uncover one of the secrets behind our software, I spoke with one of the lead developers on the Blue Planet team, Chris Stoll.
As NFV is now moving beyond the PoC stage to commercial deployments, I’m seeing an increasing trend where large, traditional vendors are attempting to create FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) about best-of-breed, multi-vendor solutions. Clearly motivated by the impending sea change that will erode their revenues, the traditional “we do everything you’ll ever need” mega-vendors are propagating several myths about supposed risks associated with an open, multi-vendor approach.
A single vendor solution is better because you have just one neck to choke
This myth comes up most often in the context of support and debugging. The way the story goes, if something goes wrong with a multi-vendor solution, different suppliers can point their fingers at one another and the operator will have a hard time troubleshooting the problem.
Making the move from provisioning services on proprietary, vertically integrated hardware appliances, to dynamically provisioning the same services as software-based functions running on COTS infrastructure, is a revolutionary step in the telecommunications industry. As proven by our recent announcement with CenturyLink, NFV technology is rapidly maturing and operators are furiously working to shift their operational model and deploy new services based on this technology.
But beyond enabling a fundamental shift in the way services are provisioned with NFV, what is also revolutionary is CHOICE. NFV has opened up a new paradigm that encourages best of breed, multi-vendor solutions, as opposed to completely integrated, silo based deployments provided by a single vendor.
When it comes to rural America, thoughts that probably come to mind for most of us are picturesque farms, little league baseball games, and pick-up trucks, but “network transformation?” …not so much. I’ll admit that if I hadn’t been marketing networking technology solutions to rural carriers for the past 15 years, yours truly would most likely be in that group. The reality I realized some time ago, however, is that the thousand-plus small to mid-sized carriers serving rural communities across the US have a long history of being early adopters of innovative communications technologies.
Today, CenturyLink and Cyan jointly announced that CenturyLink will be offering NFV-enhanced services to their enterprise and SMB customers based on Cyan’s Blue Planet NFV Orchestrator. We’re proud to be a part of CenturyLink’s network transformation initiative—and we believe the implications of this announcement are significant.
Why? There are a couple of important industry firsts and take-aways related to this news for both Cyan and CenturyLink.
To start, as far as we can tell, this is the industry’s first commercialized deployment of NFV technology where the service is fully orchestrated from end-to-end. Specifically, Blue Planet is instantiating and controlling virtual functions, coordinating with the cloud infrastructure, interconnecting these virtual functions (e.g., vFirewall, vDPI, vRouter, vDNS, etc.) to achieve service chaining, and then coordinating this activity across the network and physical resources to deliver an end-to-end service.
On Monday, VMware announced their new vCloud for NFV with integrated OpenStack. This important industry announcement signals a bold move by VMware as they step onto the NFV stage and compete for market share in the carrier network virtualization market.
Cyan was proud to be included in this announcement as a supporter of VMware’s efforts. Blue Planet Cyan was proud to be included in this announcement as a supporter of VMware’s efforts. Blue Planet can serve as a NFV orchestrator on top of VMware vCloud to provide an end-to-end solution for deploying and managing VNFs and chaining services together to create new revenue streams. The integration work that would allow Blue Planet to work with vCloud has already been completed and the solution is up and running in a customer lab as we prepare for the roll-out of that customer’s new NFV-based services.
In a recent blog I wrote about why OpenStack in and of itself is not a service orchestrator but a cloud management system (CMS) that abstracts out the complexity of a heterogeneous data center making it easier for administrators to run applications on fairly large scale compute resources. OpenStack and other CMSs such as VMware and CloudStack fall into the virtualized infrastructure manager (VIM) category of the ETSI Network Function Virtualization (NFV) framework. This framework is one of the methods for providing structure around a multi-component and multi-vendor approach to bringing modern day IT solutions to the carrier world.
As Cyan announced the N-Series, Open Hyperscale Transport Platform, we saw an interesting announcement from Facebook about 6-Pack, a new open and modular switching platform for the data center (DC). Read the Business Insider article here.
Facebook’s 6-Pack and Cyan’s N-Series serve different data center (DC) networking functions. As you can see in this diagram below, Facebook’s 6-Pack sits inside the DC providing high scale and high capacity switching. Cyan’s N-Series sits at the edge of the DC providing hyperscale data center interconnect (DCI).
Recently, the term hyperscale was coined to describe the data centers for large cloud and content providers, which can contain well over 100,000 separate physical servers and can sends 100s of terabits per second of data to the outside world. A recent white paper showed that a large cloud providers can transmit more than 250 terabits per second (Tbps) of data between hyperscale data centers – that’s 2,500 of fully packed 100G links.
Inside the four walls of the data center, storage, compute, and local area network “white-box” switches already leverages standards, open architectures and commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) technologies to achieve the ultimate balance of performance and cost. Specifically,
- Standards ensure interoperability
- Open, Linux software and applications enables flexibility, rapid development, and a consistent operating environment for servers and switches
- COTS ensures rapid, market driven capacity and density with economies of scale that drives down costs.
2014 was a year full of PoCs and limited trials for SDN and NFV. These activities were important steps for the industry as network operators try to understand the operational impact of moving toward network virtualization.
PoCs and trials teach all of us important lessons. Should VNF placement be centralized or distributed? What role does OpenStack play vs. the orchestrator? What is the commercialization model? Why is deterministic placement important for VNF performance? At the end of the day, those of us in the trenches are learning quite a bit from these engagements with operators and other vendors.