Industry Specification Group (ISG) Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV) Activity Report 2021

Chair: Bruno Chatras, Orange

Supporting the development of an open, interoperable and mature industry ecosystem for virtualized network functions running on cloud-like infrastructures.

A key enabler for the success of 5G – and relevant to other telecoms network architectures – Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV) consolidates heterogeneous network equipment types onto standard IT servers, switches and storage. NFV is an essential aspect of modern network design, simplifying roll-out of new services while reducing deployment and operational costs.

With the support of hundreds of organizations worldwide, the goal of our Industry Specification Group (ISG) on NFV is to create specifications that can accommodate today’s and tomorrow’s network requirements.

The group’s primary responsibility is to consolidate technical specifications towards the definition of a consistent operational integration with current network services. It is also addressing additional requirements for NFV technologies brought by the evolution of telecommunications networks, notably in relation to 5G.

The ISG NFV uses a system of Releases to structure its work programme. In 2021, the group worked on three Releases in parallel.

Within the framework of Release 3, the group continued to maintain all core specifications to fix issues identified by the industry and close small functional gaps, completed the protocol and data model specifications of Release 3 features, completed a report on protocol and data model solutions for multi-site connectivity services, as well as the conformance testing specifications for NFV-MANO APIs.

As NFV-based deployments gather pace worldwide, work accelerated on Release 4 that considers recent technological advances such as 5G, containerization, cloud-native design, service-based architectures and data analytics.

Simplifying network deployment and operations, Release 4 also aligns with other current industry trends in network transformation. It addresses specific technical concerns including:

  • Evolution of NFV framework to support recent cloudification and virtualization techniques,
  • Novel management architectural styles and operationalization aspects, leveraging virtualization characteristics to simplify deployments,
  • Increased support for automation.

Read a full description of Release 4 features plus a summary of all NFV Releases here.

Following publication in 2020 of a first set of normative deliverables focussed on enhanced support for container-based deployment of VNFs in the NFV framework, 2021 saw the publication of new versions of the functional requirements specifications for NFV-MANO interfaces and descriptors enabling the management of containerized VNFs. The specification of the corresponding enhancements to API and data model specifications is ongoing and is expected to be completed in 2022. Other important related achievements in 2021 are the completion of a report on network connectivity for container-based VNFs, as well as the completion of the first version of the TOSCA-based specification of NFV descriptors applicable to containerized VNFs. Furthermore, the group continued to specify requirements for the management and orchestration of container cluster nodes. The work on container-based deployment of VNFs is complemented by an ongoing work item on container security.

In line with one of the major Release 4 objectives to further operationalize NFV, many Release 4 studies were completed in 2021 on VNF license management, policy information and data models for NFV-MANO, further NFV support for 5G, autonomous management in NFV-MANO, generic OAM functions for VNFs, and on availability and reliability under failure and overload conditions in NFV-MANO. The development of normative specifications derived from the conclusions of these studies will be one of the main tasks in the group’s 2022 work programme.

Furthermore, new studies were launched on the cognitive use of operations data for reliability, and on security assurance for the NFV infrastructure.

See the full list of ISG NFV specifications and other group deliverables published in 2021 here.

In November 2021 ISG NFV announced the start of technical work on Release 5. This programme is expected to drive ETSI NFV’s work into two main directions: consolidating the NFV framework, while expanding its applicability and functionality set.

Aspects of NFV concepts and functionalities addressed in previous Releases are subject to further development in Release 5. In parallel, the new Release embraces wider industry needs – for example extending the NFV framework to address telecom use cases in the radio access network (RAN) domain.

The schedule of Release 5 Work Items considers faults and alarms modelling specifications, as well as a set of studies on VNF configuration, energy efficiency aspects for NFV, enhanced container networking, flexible VNF deployment, NFV support for virtualization of RAN and reliability evaluation for cloud-native VNFs.

It is envisioned that Release 5 studies will be completed by summer 2022.

See the full list of current ISG NFV Work Items here.

ETSI’s NFV & MEC Plugtests™ events allow NFV and multi-access edge computing solution providers and open-source projects to assess the level of interoperability of their own NFV and MEC solutions, while validating their implementation of the latest NFV and MEC specifications and APIs. They also provide an opportunity to gather feedback on conformance testing specifications and associated robot test suites.

Held remotely, February’s month-long event saw the successful recording of more than 1,200 test results. It was followed in October by a further two-week event that attracted the participation of 29 organizations and over 75 engineers. Achieving an overall interoperability success rate of 95-100%, the October event saw over 25 NFV and MEC solutions under test, including Virtualized and Containerized Network Functions (VNFs), Management and Orchestration solutions and NFV Infrastructures as well as MEC platforms, systems and applications. A full report of this event is publicly available for download.

All NFV & MEC Plugtests™ enable participating organizations and Functions Under Test (FUTs) to interact remotely through the NFV HIVE (Hub for Interoperability and Validation at ETSI) that provides a secure framework to interconnect participants’ labs and implementations.

During the year ISG NFV continued its cooperation with other ETSI groups including ISG MEC, ISG ENI and ISG ZSM, as well as retaining close links with 3GPP SA5, OASIS TOSCA, GSMA and ITU-T. Liaison was also maintained with various open source projects and communities including OpenStack, Open Source MANO (OSM), Open Networking Automation Platform (ONAP), Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) and Anuket.