The (near-term) future for NFV

Expect constructive change as NFV continues to evolve

Okinawa, Japan

G8 okinawaSettling into the meeting rooms at the sixth gathering of the ETSI Network Functions Virtualisation Industry Specification Group (ETSI NFV ISG), we were impressed by the photographs bearing actual signatures of the leaders of the G8 who attended the Kyushu-Okinawa Summit back in July, 2000.

At that meeting, the G8 issued the Okinawa Charter on Global Information Society, which carries the objective of delivering “greater prosperity and deeper peace of mind, and greater stability”.

While NFV may not wield such widespread influence, the 260+ participants at the meeting are intent on transforming the entire telecommunications industry, and could change the world like other telecommunications revolutions through the decades.

First NFV meeting held in Asia

The meeting was graciously hosted by KDDI R&D Laboratories and NTT on the lush and beautiful islands of Okinawa. The host organization was excellent, facilities outstanding and food delicious and meticulously presented. It was the region’s rainy season but even that couldn’t dampen our resolve.


From the time when the landmark NFV White Paper was issued (October, 2012 by 13 major operators), the number of operators has grown 2-1/2 times.

  • the mailing list now exceeds 1,000 individuals
  • with over 200 organizations participating in the ISG, including 85 ETSI members.
  • just since the prior meeting in February (NFV #5, Malaga, Spain), 2 new operators joined, along with 24 participants.

In October, the ISG published 4 end-to-end framework documents, which guide 15 active work items. As the requirements baseline began to solidify, the NFV Proof of Concepts (PoC) program was proposed to validate NFV use cases in a multi-vendor environment. As of NFV#6, the ISG has accepted 18 PoCs - double the number PoCs accepted since NFV #5, representing almost 80% of the NFV use cases.

Turning point

NFV #6 represents a turning point for the ISG, as emphasis is clearly shifting from requirements analysis to accelerating implementations and interoperability, towards the ultimate goal of widespread NFV adoption. The transition coincides with the planned ISG charter expiration within ETSI in early 2015. Consequently, the ISG is reassessing the organizational structure and leadership requirements in order to position the NFV group for long-term success.

Looking forward

Towards that end, the ISG leadership announced that:

  • elections will be held for a new Chair and Vice-Chair at the next meeting, NFV #7, scheduled for July 29 – August 1 in Santa Clara.
  • Prodip Sen, NFV ISG Chair and Uwe Michel, Vice-Chair, will be stepping down for personal reasons by the end
    of NFV #7.
  • Both Prodip and Uwe were instrumental in the tremendous progress achieved by the ISG; their leadership and presence will be missed.

I hope to remain engaged in this activity irrespective of my specific situation, since I truly believe in the importance of the effort we have jointly created and have made successful
ETSI NFV ISG Chair Prodip Sen

Another announcement involved Don Clarke, co-founder of the ISG and Chair of the Network Operator Council (NOC), who recently joined CableLabs, after spending over 40 years at BT. As a result of the move, the NOC voted to re-elect Don to maintain his critical role in the ISG leadership as Chair of the NOC. Don and wife Stephanie relocated to the other side of the pond to be close to family in the Mid-west. Wishing Don well in his new career.

This is a very exciting personal and career move for me and enables me to continue helping the industry move forward on NFV. I could not be more pleased with the strong spirit of collaboration in the ISG and the fantastic progress achieved. I look forward to working with industry colleagues old and new to maintain the momentum we have built up over the past 18 months.
Don Clarke, co-founder of the ISG and Chair of the Network Operator Council (NOC)

On to Phase 2

One of the liveliest sessions of the entire NFV #6 meeting was a well-attended evening session to brainstorm the future of NFV, referred to as NFV Phase 2. During NFV #5 in Malaga, Uwe Michel (NFV ISG Vice-Chair) circulated an NFV Phase 2 proposal. That proposal and some new ideas were presented leading to an energetic discussion.

The intent was to offer a forum for the participants to share their thoughts, but not make decisions until later in the year.

Our primary goal for NFV Phase 2 is to empower the implementer community to create a growing ecosystem and ensure they achieve our most important goal- multi-vendor interoperability
Vice-Chair of the NFV ISG Technical Steering Committee Tetsuya Nakamura (NTT DOCOMO)

Objectives for NFV Phase 2 include:

  • Fostering interoperable implementations
  • Facilitating development of an open ecosystem
  • Providing guidance to open source and open innovation efforts
  • Driving towards commonly defined operating environment that can support a variety of VNFs
  • Providing direction for NFV outbound messaging
  • Developing normative documents that provide requirements to relevant SDOs

In the NFV Phase 2 proposal, the NOC institution was maintained, to ensure executive oversight by the constituent with the largest stake in NFV- the Operators.

We will reassess the organization and governance model, but in the interim, maintain the current structure. The initial emphasis will be determining our specific objectives and deliverables before considering any changes
Prodip Sen

Our challenge for NFV Phase 2 is to preserve the collaboration and implementation focus that enabled us to succeed in Phase 1, without being constrained by process too much detail.
Diego Lopez, Technical Steering Committee Chair

While there are a plethora of ideas surrounding how to achieve the goals for NFV Phase 2, one that garnered a great deal of discussion is the role of Open Source software. Towards that end, a proposal for the Open Platform for NFV (OPN) was circulated among the ISG.

Modeled after OpenDaylight (the SDN Controller Framework administered by the Linux Foundation), the mission is:

Drive NFV’s evolution through an OPN which the carrier and vendor community will benefit from

The scope and governance model are under development and will be determined by the active participants.

In accordance with the NFV guiding principles, the OPN is not only targeted towards the developer community, but also the operator community as well. In this way, the work scope and technology direction will be guided by the stakeholders who will benefit most- the NFV users. OPN will take input on use cases requirements, architecture from the NFV ISG.

The proposed Open Platform for NFV benefits both operators and the vendor community, and creates a vibrant ecosystem committed to our ultimate goal of facilitating NFV adoption.
Margaret Chiosi (AT&T), lead for the Open Platform for NFV proposal

Next meeting late July in Silicon Valley 
(the venue for the two highest attendance ISG meetings: NFV #2 and NFV #4)

With the next meeting the ISG will:

• reach closure on the new leadership, organizational plan
• progress the proposed open source software project

to propel NFV towards initial deployments in 2015. There is likely to be quite a bit of discussion until then.

Modernising the way packets are forwarded
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