VMware has announced the general availability of its "cloud-first" orchestration solution for service providers, and a new name for the product.
VMware first announced Project Maestro at VMworld 2019 Europe, but has since changed the name to the Telco Automation Cloud brand.
VMWare's Telco Automation Cloud is a "cloud down" approach to model, on-board, orchestrate and manage virtual network functions (VNFs), cloud network functions (CNFs) and network services. As part of VMware's Ready for NFV program, Telco Automation Cloud is making network functions virtualization (NFV) and VNFs more manageable by taking a cloud-first approach to reduce multi-cloud complexities.
With advent of edge computing and wider rollouts of 5G, telco cloud architectures unify IT and network environments and connect them to the various private, public and edge clouds, but there needs to be orchestration to do that. As the cloud and networks evolve with containers, 5G and mobile edge compute, the challenge to contain operational costs will become increasingly more difficult, according to VMware.
Telco Cloud Automation is built as a modular, model-driven platform. The generic VNF Manager and NFV orchestrator components can integrate any SOL compliant ETSI MANO architecture. It connects to underlying technologies, such as VMware's vSphere, vCloud Director, OpenStack, and Kubernetes, or through its cloud partnerships with Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google.
VMware Telco Cloud Automation enables on-boarding of SOL001/004-compliant VNFs and services. Once on-boarded, the network functions and services are added to service providers' respective catalogs for review and instantiation, according to VMware.
To date, Telco Cloud Automation has been tested and integrated with VNFs and CNFs from Affirmed Networks, Metaswitch, Altiostar, Mavenir, Altran, VeloCloud, and Avi Networks. VMware is currently working with design and beta customers.
Service providers have been frustrated for years that vendors' VNFs are too specific to their own solutions, such as customer premises equipment, and therefore take too long to on-board. Outside of a few notable exceptions, such as AT&T and Orange, NFV deployments in general have been slowed by the lack standardized VNFs.
On the NFV front, the Common NFVi Telco Taskforce (CNTT) is in the process of defining a common industry framework for network functions virtualization infrastructure (NFVi). The CNTT is working hand in hand with LF Networking's testing and compliance program, OPNFV Verification Program (OVP), for VNFs, which was announced at the Open Networking Summit earlier last year. Along with service providers such as AT&T, Bell Canada, China Mobile, Deutsche Telekom, Jio, Orange, SK Telecom, Telstra, Verizon and Vodafone, VMware is a contributing member to CNTT.
In terms of the management and network orchestration (MANO) layer, work is also being done by ETSI's OSM and LF Networking's ONAP.
"Everyone is trying to figure how to orchestrate NFV and VNFs," said Lee Doyle, principal analyst at Doyle Research. "The standards haven't matured to the point that's easy, that it becomes an ecosystem. In addition to VMware, there are tons of other companies, such as Red Hat, trying to solve this. Red Hat. It's a compatibility issue, but it's getting better."
When VMware first announced Project Maestro, Tom Nolle, president of CIMI Corp., questioned how much more it had to offer the NFV ecosystem other than on-boarding of VNFs.
"The question, which the release doesn’t answer, is exactly how much more the VMware NFV ecosystem will offer. If it’s only a little, then this is just a platform to reduce on-boarding issues," Noelle said last year. "If it’s a lot, it could be a big asset in transitioning operators to hosted features."
VMware said in an email to FierceTelecom on Wednesday night that Telco Cloud Automation was more than the on-boarding of VNFs and CNFs.
"We are doing a lot more – from core to RAN from orchestration to automation, AI, assurance, closed loop, etc." VMware said.