Verizon, TM Forum establish storefront structure for NFV services, functions


Verizon is working with the TM Forum Catalyst program to drive three Catalyst projects centered on virtualization, including an NFV Ecosystem Enabler that allows service providers to make their virtual network services available to the broader industry.

For this project, Verizon joined together with other TM Forum members including AT&T, Orange, China Mobile, IBM and Huawei to develop the building blocks required for realizing new NFV applications and services. 

The NFV Ecosystem Enabler is a set of recommendations the TM Forum created with layers of abstraction and the appropriate templates, metadata and tools to form an interoperable tool chain for zero-touch onboarding experiences between service providers and suppliers.

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Ashis Sarkar, director of systems engineering at Verizon, told FierceTelecom that participating service providers will be able to offer specific information about their VNFs to the broader service community.

“When we get to the virtual world, the software has to work on that black phone,” Sarkar said. “There are so many network functions that VNF can provide so the separation of the physical and virtual is our first challenge to make sure that when you get the software it can work.”

Specifically, the TM Forum and participating carriers focused on creating definitions that address the data model, the API, and the categories. Each category would define what kind of function the VNF provides and what behavior they will have.

Unlike the traditional method of purchasing hardware, VNFs are software, so a carrier has to build security around them. This marketplace will give carriers guidance on what the VNFs are and how they will operate in a particular network environment. 

“We have created a marketplace where any provider can list their VNFs and then categorize, launch and load them in your cloud platform,” Sarkar said.

Some of the applications this marketplace could offer would be a virtual routing or a firewall platform, for example. These applications would then comply with specific APIs and other common usage rules.  

“A virtual routing platform would allow a carrier to purchase a routing platform and use any vendor that complies with the APIs and the categories that apply to it,” Sarkar said. “The marketplace is like the app store in that it complies to certain rules and regulations and carriers like us can go and download it and certify it and start using it.”

In tandem with the NFV Ecosystem enabler, Verizon and other carriers are participating in Project Lily, which creates lighter service inventory by modeling it through abstractions in the network and OSS/BSS environment.

While more service providers like Verizon and AT&T are implementing virtual functions into their network, they can’t throw out all of their hardware platforms. Project Lily allows the service providers to create an inventory of their virtual and physical assets.

“We have to have full visibility of the inventory on our network,” Sarkar said. “The first project provides how to get new VNFs into our network and the second one helps to ensure my customers are taken care of.”