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Canonical’s VNF PIL for NFV scale out architectures

John Zannos

on 22 February 2016

Tags: NFV , vnf

This article was last updated 8 years ago.

The promise of Network Function Virtualization (NFV) is to supply Service Providers a way to create and deliver new services faster. With this promise comes new complexity. Earlier today at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Canonical announced the first VNF Performance Interoperability Lab (V-PIL). Building on our successful OIL program and rapidly growing NFV infrastructure (NFVi) experience. The V-PIL will provide independent performance testing, interoperability and validation of virtualized network functions (VNFs) in a multi-vendor environment for customer evaluations. This will provide Service Providers an expedite way to test VNF interoperability and performance in an independent lab and on premise within their unique network architecture.

Network Function Virtualization (NFV) has produced new deployment options using an open ecosystem of VNF off-the-shelf hardware (based on Intel x86, ARM and OpenPOWER) and VNF software (open source and priority)  to build software defined scale-out production services. The NFV revolution is full of the promise of flexibility and speed for the network operators  but also numerous challenges given the complex environment it creates. The research, validation and testing required to implement these new NFV architectures is challenging for network operators. Network operators now face the challenge of introducing virtualized functions and their supporting infrastructure platforms. The network operator’s needs confirm that all the pieces work well together. They need fast accurate independent test results. Automating performance and interoperability evaluations can cut down development times, save operators resources and help operators to implement a “NO RFP” practice. This would significantly reduce the current 6-12 months time to market and free-up highly skilled resources. Network operators need a solution that will help with VNF on-boarding, quick validation of various deployment models, performance testing and address the challenges of vendor interoperability through the entire software stack.

V-PIL provides three fundamental services required for evaluating different mixes of applications:

  • Automation enablement,
  • Performance testing,
  • Interoperability testing.

V-PIL leverage the same automation and service model tools we have used to simplify the deployment of OpenStack. The automation of the test protocol is possible thanks to Juju being utilized to manage standardized VNF models. Juju is a universal service modeling system that models applications, relationships and scale, while being independent of substrate. Services are first-class concepts in the Juju model, in contrast with traditional configuration management systems which focus on machines. This service-orientation makes Juju particularly well suited to the role of VNFM, enabling higher-level orchestrators to make business decisions and articulate those decisions very clearly and simply through the underlying model provided by Juju.

The flexibility to place service units on physical, virtual, cloud, and container machines is important for both test and for productization cycles. In production it is important to have a choice of which substrate to use, all of which are available in the lab. With Juju, VNF development and testing can iterate very quickly allowing customers to evaluate multiple models and application mixes in weeks instead of months.

V-PIL defines standardised reusable live models for NFV starting with the following use cases:

  • vEPC – Wireless Infrastructure with virtual Evolved Packet Core and IMS core
  • vCDN – Media processing with virtual CDN, Transcoding, Caching and Streaming
  • vE-CPE – Enterprise Customer Premise Equipment and virtualisation of Firewall, Provider Router, DPI, WAN Optimisation and Service Chaining

VNF applications are first charmed in Juju, then developed into service models for efficient continuous deployment throughout the test cycles. The model starts with OpenStack then layers the VNF applications on top, configuring the interfaces between vendor applications. By creating the service topology, ultimately Juju is building the reference architecture model by defining not only the standard interfaces interconnecting the VNFs but also deployment architecture with machine constraints and network spaces. Juju network spaces provide finer-grained control over the networking aspects of the environment and service deployments. Find below an example of a Juju bundle encapsulating an end-to-end virtualized Mobile infrastructure for a VoLTE service as well as VNF partners mapping to a subset of the overall services.

The V-PIL program invites VNF vendors to follow the same principle and bundle their applications. This is an example of a container based Evolved Packet Core with one of our partners, Expeto:

“Our enterprise and IoT customers care about getting their solutions to market extremely quickly. V-PIL provides an expedited path to new service introduction, which directly translates to their cost savings or revenue generation” said Ryley MacKenzie, CEO,  Expeto.

Interoperability tests can be run against VNF interfaces to ensure standards are met and all messages are processed properly. The overall service deployment can also be validated for compliance by inserting simulations for user equipment or network elements client/server interfaces.

Rebaca Technologies is a VNF development R&D firm and provides a full protocol toolchain for Diameter client and server 3GPP based interfaces including Gx/y, Rf/x, Sy/d/g etc. By creating charms for these tool chains the integration and deployment of the test can be fully automated as part of the deployment model and dynamically sequenced as part of the Continuous Integration (CI) routine but also be added on demand in production deployment.

“Rebaca Technologies is very excited to be part of the V-PIL program. To collaborate with VNF providers and develop the relevant test cases and incorporate them into Juju charms (test charms) for easy deployment and activation in the NFV ecosystem. We look forward to providing an automation framework for functional testing, interoperability testing as well as performance testing of  VNFs  in a multi-vendor environment,” said Samir K, Chatterjee, Managing Director, Rebaca Technologies.

Additional automated tests are also performed at the infrastructure level leveraging existing tools and projects  such as OpenStack Tempest as well OPNFV test projects such as Functest and Platform Performance Benchmarking Qtip. The last part of the testing are the performance tests where VNF applications are tested to provide a report back to the customer on how well they perform and scale out. As part of the performance test scope, V-PIL underpin a cloud benchmark framework called CABS that allow to characterize the end-to-end infrastructure deployment based on key metrics widely used by public providers such as Amazon and Google, we are integrating back this framework and applying it to NFV deployment and will also extend it specifically for VNF deployment.

V-PIL can be utilized in-house at a Network Operator owned data centre or in Canonical’s own labs. Each test contains reports on functional compliance, analytics data and KPI metrics. Standardized reusable architectural models tested and optimized  by Network Operators  can be easily deployed in production. The model can be exported and re-deployed in the future as part of a continuous integration plan. This drastically reduces the lifecycle costs of testing and deploying a service, and improves reliability to meet SLAs and time to market.

V-PIL embraces an open source first approach and welcome contributions from communities developing VNF. A great example is Eurecom contributing the openairinterface project as a foundation for V-PIL 5G support enabling vRAN and C-RAN capabilities. You can find the asset in the juju charm store under OAI and the ability to deploy the following blueprint:

“Today standardization and open-source are becoming complementary allowing fast innovation and development phase of new technologies while retaining long-term stability and interoperability. In the context of the evolutionary path towards a software-defined 5G networks, there is clearly the need for open-source tools to ensure a common prototyping framework for rapid proof-of-concept designs. This requires VNF performance and interoperability testing to ensure a rapid end-to-end service integration and deployment across commercial and open source VNF,” said Navid Nikaein, Professor at Eurecom, France. “Canonical V-PIL will drive innovation in 5G by testing the standard as it is being drafted leveraging the crowdsourcing effect both from industrial and academic users.”

Canonical’s V-PIL will provide independent performance testing, interoperability and validation of virtualized network functions (VNFs) in a multi-vendor environment for customer evaluations. Service Providers will be able to utilize Interoperability testing in the Lab, and Interoperability and Performance testing in the lab and on premise. VNF Application Providers and Hardware Manufactures can participate in the Lab to test Interoperability and Performance against a set of defined use case (ie vEPC, vMedia, vE-CPE) and be part of custom on premise engagements. Network Test Providers and Labs will have new opportunities for telco network test services. In addition, Juju, Canonical’s generic VNF manager provides open source, generic application modelling, enabling Service Providers (and Projects like OpenMANO) to focus on industry-specific orchestration challenges, and is central to the delivery of any NFV stack.

Supporting Statements

IBM Power Systems

“Working with Canonical and our OpenPOWER Foundation partners in the V-PIL program allows us to take advantage of a multi-platform, multi-vendor environment with powerful automation tools designed to accelerate interoperability and ease of deployment of new NFV applications. In addition, by providing access to OpenPOWER-based systems, we’re able to achieve a deeper collaboration with our NFV ecosystem partners and further extend the reach of OpenPOWER Foundation-based innovation into the telecommunications industry,” said Richard Talbot, Director, IBM Power Systems, Cloud Infrastructure.


“Canonical’s V-PIL Program will allow service providers to more effectively deploy VNFs in their networks with a higher level of certainty,” said Paul Drew, SVP of Mobile Technology at Metaswitch. “We are excited to be working with Canonical and look forward to supporting this program.”


“We at Affirmed have been a catalyst for the journey of the operators from merely evaluating NFV based solutions to a widespread adoption of software-based network architectures that now serves as the foundation of a new breed of networks and services,” said Amit Tiwari, vice president strategic alliances and systems engineering at Affirmed Networks.  “For this evolution to be successful, however, there needs to be support and collaboration from across the ecosystem focused on mitigating challenges before the deployment stage to ensure the smoothest path for mobile operators as part of this transformation.  For this reason, we applaud the efforts and investments that Canonical is making to ensure the success of our customer deployments as we drive this seminal technology evolution.”


“NFV is fundamentally changing how service providers operate their network. GENBAND has been at the forefront of this transition with a differentiated Virtual Network Functions (VNF) portfolio that includes fully virtualized, high-performance communications signaling, control and media management solutions with a VNF Management framework and open APIs that enables seamless interoperability with other VNFs and cloud infrastructure components.”, said Sanjay Bhatia, Vice President  of Solutions Marketing and Strategy at GENBAND. ” This only works if the interoperability of the VNF and cloud components of the NFV ecosystem can be demonstrated. Canonical’s VNF Performance Interoperability Lab (V-PIL) not only addresses the interoperability, but also evaluates the performance of these NFV environments. GENBAND has firsthand experience with Canonical’s Generic VNF Manager Juju and we are delighted to work with Canonical’s V-PIL program to help our customers move to NFV faster.”

Canonical is focused on enabling the Telecom industry to collaborate and crowd-source expertise in performance, security and integration. We are committed to working with the Telecom market to accelerate the adoption and deliver the promise of NFV. We will continue to bring open source innovation and expertise to Telecoms and welcome the opportunity to talk with any Telecom Service Providers or Partners (VNF ISV, Testing, SI or hardware company) about V-PIL and our efforts in NFV.

Co-authored by Nic Lemieux, Artur Tyloch and John Zannos

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