NFV/SDN Platform or Application Driven? Set Right Focus to reach the final Goal


As industry enters the Industry4.0 and many world leaders as WEF talk about their country commitments and support for Transformation it is evident we are entering an Era of disruption at scale. However still the true benefits of CSP transformation are not quantified and it is not sure what is told in theory has same significance in practice?

So where is the real problem , we still remember NFV was initially set to reduce CAPEX of CSP’s facing decline revenues but later we found every white box cannot fulfil the requirements and NFV COTS cost is tenfold the cost of IT servers so CAPEX dream was never conceived correctly , recently though even ETSI formed new ISG’s for using OPEX as main driver for NFV but did this the real issue .It actually depends on how NFV is conceived .


In whole industry how to take the journey has two approaches


Build Platform first or Build Application first , the proponents of former are main Cloud companies who want to see application as IT service which do not fits well for the Telco Service . After all in CSP’s the revenue is from Application not from platform.

The later claims application is the key and platform must be built for it. In a short term this looks more appealing as every CSP want to virtualize a PNF right so is more logical that a heavy vendor with the idea of application leading means more sense but what lies beneath the iceberg is questioning self are we building a platform that can meet future requirements in at least 5-10years . Unfortunately many CSP’s are not long sighted on it primarily due to only one reason that they never faced such issue. So right example to see will be Facebook. If finally Mark decided to take FB to the communication industry (whose signs are quite strong) how they will build. Obviously make a platform irrespective of service. Here I am not saying service is not important but I want to say that Platform must serve every service.


An example will make things easy to grab, Vendor X have its VNF (VDU design) if ask platform how to develop will give requirements of NUMA Placements, Pass-through , Bonds and forwarding plan design that will somehow can limit future hosting of new vendor VNF . Similarly for DC L0 the COTS/SAN dimensioning will be in-accurate. E.g based on m1.tiny and m1.large flavor size and VM placement last time I observed multi-vendor scenario may lead to not use your infrastructure more than 65% . This is a big compromise.


So it looks promising if we build platform first and irrespective of service, I do understand some limitations will come based on service type like Media and control plan require a different HA /AZ but at scale NE’s from same service class must be supported by a common Reference Architecture. Especially if along the Journey same platform will be open to IT and to Programmers the key is to control the platform not application.


In my later blog I will explain how the platform can be planned specially for ICT converged case and how it will help you size the DC and reduce CAPEX but for now we just look down on key Functions of an ICT Platform


  • Unified O&M

Rally, Ansible, 3rd party tools, Drive train, vROPS, Functest, Dovetail how to unify them around a simple one click architecture is key and realize config automation. Similarly platform must support same cluster for both Telco and IT DC’s as one platform


  • Supports all Performance (not high performance)

Instead of high performance the platform must support all applications with different performance


  • Multi Tenancy ( with minimum HA/HG’s)

vApps from both IT and Telco can onboard using same process and standardized API’s. It looks difficult till micro services architecture comes in place around 2020



  • Auto scaling

The use of AI in later years in NFV/SDN is only possible if auto scaling works well in scaled network. I mean in many DC’s where resources are in pool. I do not see a quick solution soon because of Super VIM architecture that still need to fit well with concept of hyper scaling. In the current auto scaling as defined in Open-O standardization looks like a issue and auto scaling parameters in VNFD of VNF1 can be very different from VNF2 at least this is our experience. I think ONAP Beijing release will address this issue somehow along the road as confirmed by Confluence team to me last week.


  • Distribute DC

The main theme is how NFV will work if for same VNF the VM’s are placed in different DC’s , how service will scale and how NFVO will real time optimize NFVI resource , this idea need more refinement because one VIM only controls one DC Infrastructure at this time


Sincerely the list is quite long but above 5 are the key points for Platform if somehow it needs to meet at least next 5Yr requirements. My next blog should try to find out how to actually plan the NFVi and can we say that VNF requirements of Server/Storage is enough?


Sheikh is the Chief Architect Consultant for NFV, SDN and Telco Cloud in Saudi Telecom Company which is the Biggest ICT Operator in Middle East, Always interested in those disruptive technology driving the industry transformation, Author hails from Telco CSP background and since 2013 working on Telco Cloud domain including Amazon, Huawei, Mirantis, VMware, RedHat etc. The comments in my writings are my own and shall not be considered as any relation/binding with those of my employer.

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Saad Sheikh

I am a Senior Architect with a passion to architect and deliver solutions addressing business adoption of the Cloud and Automation/Orchestration covering both Telco and IT Applications industry. My work in carrier Digital transformation involve Architecting and deploying Platforms for both Telco and IT Applications including Clouds both Open stack and container platforms, carrier grade NFV ,SDN and Infra Networking , DevOps CI/CD , Orchestration both NFVO and E2E SO , Edge and 5G platforms for both Consumer and Enterprise business. On DevOps side i am deeply interested in TaaS platforms and journey towards unified clouds including transition strategy for successful migration to the Cloud Please write to me on

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