Facing a seemingly insatiable demand for data connectivity, combined with eroding data revenues, telecommunications networks, and data centres are having to deliver much more for less driving new business models and creative solutions to service delivery.

Virtualisation – where rapid deployment and redeployment of network assets and functionality to meet demand takes place through a machine rather than human control has become essential to support new emerging business models, competition from Over the Top providers, ongoing commoditisation of traditional transport services and revenue erosion. There really is no choice but to make network virtualisation work.

Network virtualisation has been hyped as a disruptive technology that enables service providers to achieve this. Unlike many new technologies, network virtualisation fulfils a clear business need beyond Capital Expenditure (CAPEX) and Operational Expenditure (OPEX) reduction. Network virtualisation provides operators with the opportunity to derive more value from operational and planned network and data centre assets.

The most established network virtualisation components are:

  • The Software Defined Network (SDN)
  • Network Function Virtualisation (NFV)

NFV and SDN provide a unique opportunity to bring IT and Telecommunications Capacity Planning together. Historically, IT and telecommunications capacity planning functions have existed in very separate silos, using their own processes and methodologies. We argue that with NFV the consolidation of IT and telecommunications capacity management functions is required to obtain true end-to-end visibility of the networking real estate and be able to match overall capacity and business demands.

This White Paper addresses one of the most critical elements in making network virtualisation successful: Capacity Management. To date, even the more enlightened operators – those that have embraced the need for an automated virtualised network have failed to appreciate the need to properly consider capacity planning and orchestration as a means to derive the most effective benefit from infrastructure assets.

Yet capacity management is essential if margins are to be maintained, as Tony Fallows, CEO Aria Networks states:

“There have been claims that Capacity Planning would no longer be needed with NFV because NFV could always dynamically create new resources as required. It is true that NFV does provide mechanisms to address dynamically changing demands. However, we expect that for quite a long time we would be operating in a hybrid environment where some network functions would be virtualized (e.g., IMS, EPC), while others would not (e.g., DWDM systems, Core MPLS switches).”

The management of capacity will also be key during the transition to a managed virtual network. It will migrate from an operational requirement to a more strategic planning need: one based on an understanding of how applications and services change over time, facilitating a more holistic dimensioning of capacity.

A small number of vendors are starting to consider the network in this manner. Aria Networks corporate inception was built around the concept of “intelligent Virtual Network Topologies” as productised in its iVNT platform. Cyan has a similar view, specifically with respect to the definition of capacity templates using standards like HEAT and TOSCA. Cyan Networks CTO, Steve West, believes:

“If systems are to be able to effectively orchestrate the management of capacity, then the definition of Capacity must be presented to the Orchestrator and support systems in the form of reusable templates that can encode information not only about raw capacity but also its relationship to other capacities in the system.”

The endgame will be a self-managed Virtual Network. The transition to this model will require the management of legacy network elements and SDN enabled components. It will also require the orchestration between islands of network functionality, such as data centres, access, core, wireless and wireline networks. Each will have its own network orchestrator but if end to end services are to be managed dynamically, there needs to be the provision of a “global orchestration” function between orchestrators. This global orchestration will take the form of a population of orchestrators communicating with each other through an open standard, as outlined by Nik Willets, Chief Strategy Officer at the TMF Forum.

“One Reason for the network-wide coordination of the entire process of creating a truly virtualised network is that the ultimate vision will be control over massive resources including complex heterogeneous radio access networks down to ubiquitous Wi-Fi hotspots. This is not a time for piecemeal solutions.”

Vendors who provide management and orchestrator functionality for services and applications will need to model networks in a different way. Specifically, they will need to consider:

  1. A data-driven definition of a network
  2. A data-driven definition of capacity

The former is really an SDN enabler. Once networks can be defined simply by data any network architecture can be modelled or tweaked in real-time. How the network functionality changes is defined by the second requirement, the NFV enabler. The latter separates the definition and interrelationships of capacity from the hardware and its consumption by a service.

Aria Networks’ vision has always been to construct a data-driven network definition of capacity. These are realised in two flagship products:

  1. intelligent Virtual Network Topology” (iVNT) – a generic routing product
  2. Capacity Planner – a resource manager and defines the capacity and its consumption in reusable data-driven templates.

The industry has now caught up with our vision and instantiated it with SDN and NFV. Concepts like the Software-Defined Data Centre (SDDC) should be viewed as applications of this approach. This whitepaper places capacity management and orchestration front and centre of the evolution to a true service enabled virtual network constructed on the principles of NFV and SDN.

Network operators and operators of networks of large data centres need to effectively plan, optimise, and orchestrate capacity to derive the best possible value from infrastructure assets, plan operational and capital expenditure and deliver the most effective capacity management from their networks. Central to this objective is effectively understanding the current and future demands on a network and enabling the network to optimise itself in real-time to deliver to these demands.

Download the whitepaper here: Capacity Management and Orchestration for Virtualised Networks