Common NFVi Telco Task Force publishes reference model and reference architecture for unified framework

Common NFVi Telco Taskforce (CNTT) announced on Monday at the Open Networking Summit Europe that it has published its first NFVi specifications to help align the industry on a unified framework. (Pixabay)

After taking flight early this year, Common NFVi Telco Taskforce (CNTT) announced on Monday that it has published its first specifications to align the industry on a unified NFV framework.

CNTT was formed to create and document a common network functions virtualization infrastructure (NFVi) framework in order to speed up the deployment of virtual network functions (VNFs) across the entire telecommunications stack.

Currently, there are too many instances of NFVi, which means VNF vendors need to create multiple versions of their VNFs to work with the different flavors of NFVi. Common NFVi Telco Task Force is taking aim at reducing the number of NFVi implementations from low double digits down to three or four versions.

CNTT works in tandem with LF Networking's testing and compliance program, OPNFV Verification Program (OVP), for commercial VNFs tested against an open platform. OVP was announced at Open Networking Summit North America earlier this year. OVP's work is supposed to shorten the on-boarding effort for VNFs, accelerate time to revenue, and reduce costs for both VNF vendors and operators.

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The CNTT, which is jointly under the auspices of the Linux Foundation's LF Networking and GSMA, was first openly discussed at the Open Networking Summit North America conference in April. At the time, the CNTT was comprised of AT&T, Bell Canada, China Mobile, Deutsche Telekom, Jio, Orange, SK Telecom, Telstra, Verizon and Vodafone.

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In June, LF Networking and GSMA made the creation of the CNTT official. Prior to that, GSMA worked with Orange and Vodafone on writing standards around common definitions for NFVi. 

"This was kind of what I call the missing link to really getting NFVi to scale," said Chris Rice, senior VP of network cloud and infrastructure at AT&T, prior to Monday's announcement. "I'm very hopeful that if we move forward with this, and get out of it what I think will make a lot of sense for everyone, the ecosystem will be that catalyst to get NFV really to scale."

In July, CNTT held its first community-wide event in Paris with more than 80 operator and vendor participants in attendance. On Monday, LF Networking and GSMA announced the common reference model and first reference architecture on OpenStack at ONS Europe.

“This initial release represents the first tangible output of CNTT,” said the Linux Foundation's Heather Kirksey, vice president, community and ecosystem development, in a statement. “In the short time since ONS North America, the community has already reached milestones around creation of the reference model and first reference architecture.

"We have also initiated significant discussion around reference implementation along with commencement of enhancements to OVP within OPNFV. I am very pleased to see the focused delivery of this group and our ability to align the industry and accelerate innovation, especially in the advance of 5G."

Following the July meeting, CNTT is working with taskforce members ​to refine the NFVi reference model, define a limited number of reference architectures, develop testing and verification requirements, and work with OVP on VNF compliance and validation lifecycle. Looking ahead, CNTT will focus on containerization, Kubernetes-based cloud-native stacks and container-based network functions’ validation requirements

The preliminary documentation, including the first reference model, is available in the CNTT GitHub ​repository.

Is CNTT enough to move the NFVi ball down the field?

There are numerous attempts in the works to make NFV  a more manageable and workable approach to virtualization. While some service providers, such as AT&T, Verizon and CenturyLink have deployed NFV, it has made networks more complex and harder to manage.

Tom Nolle, president and founder of consulting firm CIMI Corp., has long-contended that NFV has been off the rails almost since its inception in the first white paper by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI.) 

In one of his recent blogs, an operator described CNTT's July meeting to Nolle as the “battle of the box natives versus the cloud natives."

Following on his belief that NFV has been the wrong path for years, Nolle was not impressed with CNTT's news on Monday.

"I wish the NFV community, and operators in general, would look at the whole issue of service virtualization and carrier cloud in a smart, top-down, way," Nolle said in an email to FierceTelecom. "They’ve already messed up NFV and zero-touch automation, and they’re in the process of messing up edge computing and carrier cloud. 

"I don’t know how long it will take to shake right answers out of all of this, or how far from optimum the eventual result will be, but it’s not the best way to support transformation."