TIA launches NFV interoperability testing lab

The Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) is launching a lab for vendors and service providers to conduct interoperability testing of network functions virtualization (NFV) technology.

Set to go live sometime early next year, the TIA NFV Lab is designed to be one of North America's first vendor-neutral test beds for NFV technology.

TIA's NFV Lab is focused on two main goals: ensuring that software and applications running on the network are able to perform as designed and work seamlessly together with other software and applications.

As the demand for data has continued to rise from various sources, including over the top services and IoT, service providers like AT&T (NYSE: T), CenturyLink (NYSE: CTL) and Verizon (NYSE: VZ), have begun to move away from specialized network hardware to NFV and SDN technologies, which utilize flexible cloud-based solutions.

Since these virtual services operate on an adaptable network, the providers demand testing that ensures they work in real-world environments and are interoperable with a variety of other services.

"We saw an opportunity with NFV where there's a huge gap where that compatibility angle has not been worked out yet," said Franklin Flint, CTO of TIA, in an interview with FierceTelecom. "You have these ecosystems that are being formed with things that work in one ecosystem not working in another ecosystem and that does not help the carriers get to that approach to pick and choose the components they want in their network and assume it would work without having to put a lot of engineering resources to work."

The lab would provide basic functionality testing and then the TIA would publish the results of the work so other members of the industry can get involved in driving further deployments of NFV.

A carrier would also benefit from not having to put together a large amount of resources from their vendors.

Being a collaborative effort, TIA is not going it alone in developing its NFV Lab. It plans to leverage the European Telecommunications Standards Institute's (ETSI) NFV Industry Specification Group (ISG) initial framework.

TIA plans to leverage other industry-led lab facilities of other vendors, service providers and testing organizations.

"We will build some lab resources in Virginia at our headquarters, but we'll also be connecting to other labs around the world where they have resources available," Flint said. "All of the vendor members in our lab have their own labs and the carriers, many of which have extra resources that could be used to do other stuff."

Having this lab in place comes at a time when service providers are ramping up their NFV and SDN efforts.

Leveraging its SDN and NFV capabilities, AT&T now serves 275 customers with its Ethernet on-demand capability. Available in 175 markets, the network on demand capability allows customers to implement broadband services on the fly using a dedicated portal.

CenturyLink is being just as aggressive. The service provider revealed it equipped over 36 locations in multiple geographies with its virtual network services.

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