Mirantis launches NFV initiative with partners Citrix, Metaswitch and Overture

Network Functions Virtualization (NFV), which enables service providers to replace expensive purpose-built equipment with software instances on any hardware platform anywhere within their networks, is catching fire, and this week Mirantis announced a new NFV initiative with partners Citrix, Metaswitch Networks and Overture Networks.

The project is based on existing client engagements with customers such as AT&T and Ericsson — Mirantis is the largest OpenStack provider for companies in the $1.6 trillion* telecommunications industry — and will include an NFV reference architecture to enable customers to easily deploy NFV solutions on OpenStack, and an OpenStack validation program for partner virtual network functions (VNFs).

“The telecommunications industry is in the midst of a massive transformation. It faces a ballooning customer base consuming massive amounts of data, and competition from a new wave of startups born out of the Web,” said Mirantis VP of Product and Partner Marketing, Kamesh Pemmaraju. “These companies must innovate, and to do so, their networking needs to be agile, scalable and cost effective. The best way to do this is through NFV, which is why NFV investments will reach nearly $21 billion by 2020.***”

Mirantis, which prides itself on being a “pure play OpenStack” vendor, will work on adding NFV-required features to OpenStack itself, including “making it a carrier-grade OpenStack distribution that offers a small physical footprint, high availability (HA), single root I/O virtualization (SR-IOV) and other NFV features that support high performance VNF deployments,” according to the press release.

The company is taking pains to point out that this does not mean they will be creating a new distribution of OpenStack just for NFV.  “Mirantis OpenStack itself is, of course, the fulcrum for our NFV work,” Mirantis VP of Product Marketing Kamesh Pemmaraju wrote in his blog about the project. “Our current Open NFV Reference Platform draws on our earlier focus on deploying OpenStack with HA, minimizing cluster footprints, adapting to NFV-friendly network-hardware-level innovations like SR-IOV for NIC port virtualization and OS/hypervisor offload to hardware (also very useful for storage networking). In projects live with our carrier customers today, we’re successfully enabling VNF access to advanced CPU features (e.g., NUMA, CPU pinning) and tools like Intel DPDK. Over time, these field-proven evolutions will work their way back into Mirantis OpenStack, and to our upstream submissions.”

In an interview with MSPMentor, Pemmaraju also noted that while OpenStack talk inevitably turns to scale, Mirantis OpenStack already provides the ability to create a 200-node cluster out of the box, with no additional tuning.  “For most MSPs and carriers,” the magazine wrote, “that’s more than sufficient to launch a pilot project or support a small deployment, he said. In fact, he noted that many smaller MSPs and carriers can steal a march on larger rivals that won’t be able to fully deploy NFVs at a massive scale until well into next year at the earliest.”

For some, this race is at the heart of the NFV initiative. “Taken together,” Pemmaraju wrote, “we think the Mirantis NFV initiative provides the right components to help CSPs get past their legacy, innovate and offer new services faster, and consolidate operational efficiencies that will shore up their bottom lines. Mirantis’ role in this is to provide these companies with a hardened configuration of Mirantis OpenStack that is compliant with the emerging ETSI-NFV reference architecture. And we want to help them populate this platform from a range of validated partner VNFs, associated management and orchestration tools, and related solutions: all easy to deploy and scale.”

To that end, the program has already certified three Virtual Network Functions (VNFs):

One interesting note is that while it seems obvious that NFV would be part of OpenStack’s Software Defined Networking project, Neutron, in fact it’s not. In fact, as Pemmaraju pointed out to Enterprise Networking, NFV — and specifically the NFVi, or infrastructure, part of NFV, is primarily dependant on the OpenStack Compute project, Nova. “In addition to OpenStack Nova, the OpenStack Heat orchestration project is a critical component to the NFV architecture, since much of the benefit of virtualizing network functions comes from the flexibility to increase or decrease the network function load on demand as customer’s needs change. In order to automate the changes in deployed virtual network functions, an orchestration service is required, and the OpenStack Heat project is one such service,” the magazine wrote.

“In addition to OpenStack services like Nova, Heat, and Neutron,” Pemmaraju added, “the NFV movement is also dependent on innovation in the lower-level Linux networking stack and supporting projects like OpenVSwitch and DPDK, which is why Mirantis is investing in these non-OpenStack projects.”

Mirantis Director of Engineering elaborated, explaining the role of OPNFV, of which Mirantis is a Silver member. “OPNFV is an effort to produce reference implementations and a testing platform for NFV on all open source software. OpenStack is the infrastructure layer (NFVi) of the larger NFV architecture, which includes the virtual network functions themselves, higher level orchestration systems, and operational and business support systems.”

Pipes explained that the actual “bits” for one of the OPNFV reference architectures are a combination of Mirantis OpenStack (for the infrastructure) and non-OpenStack open source software, like OpenDaylight and Ceph, that are other pieces of the NFV system. He told the magazine that “the actual pieces of an OPNFV reference architecture include a combination of Mirantis OpenStack (for the infrastructure) and non-OpenStack open source software, like OpenDaylight and Ceph, that are other pieces of the NFV system.”

Mirantis and Metaswitch will provide more information on this NFV initiative at a webinar on Tuesday, Septeber 22.

In other news, this week also saw the certification of Project Calico with Mirantis OpenStack, meaning that users can now deploy the L2 Networking project easily directly within the Fuel control plane used with Mirantis OpenStack.

Midokura also announced the integration of Midonet with Mirantis OpenStack. “We recognize that Mirantis customers receive outstanding end-to-end support for deploying OpenStack in production,” said Adam Johnson, VP of business for Midokura. “The only missing piece was an easy-to-deploy and scalable networking overlay technology. Today, we are delighted to cement our technical and business alliance with Mirantis and fill the gap with the availability of the MidoNet plugin for Fuel. We look forward to delivering easier, more affordable and more scalable networking to Mirantis customers around the globe.”

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