We recently spoke to Kontron’s Luc-Yves Pagal Vinette to discuss the increasing role that SDN and NFV have to play, particularly within the operations of tier two and three operators. For smaller providers, innovation is essential in staying relevant, and Kontron looks to facilitate this.
From your perspective, how advanced is the SDN ecosystem that Kontron is helping to build?
The NFV approach promoted by ETSI is currently incomplete and doesn’t necessarily deliver all the promises that the market expected. What makes this model incomplete is the fact that it doesn’t provide the necessary answers to the multi-vendor conundrum that operators are currently facing. An additional missing piece involves the SDN controller being absent from the Open MANO structured approach. Operators’ service infrastructures are based on a multi-vendor scenario, thus proposing either the stacking of multiple NFVo (NFV orchestrators) or defining an agnostic version of the orchestration component. More importantly, the SDN side of the solution is missing from the equation to some extent. It doesn’t provide a well-defined integration strategy on incorporating such an important piece into the mix, resulting in open networking limitations.
Kontron is helping alleviate this issue by creating a scenario where multi-vendor VNFs could be leveraged out of one unique orchestration component, and accommodating all of its elements: the NFVi (OpenStack, Kubernetes/Docker, VMWARE, etc.), as well as the SDN controller as per our recently announced strategic partnership with Inocybe Technologies. We are paving the way for operators to take full advantage of ONAP (Open Network Automation Platform), which will allow them to leverage any vendors’ VNFs for their end customers.
What is Kontron doing to facilitate the open source community?
We’re not here to serve the open source community per se, but rather deliver the benefits of open source to our customers. What we define as hybrid MANO, is trying to find the right position in between NFVi software, the orchestration service layer, and the OSS/BSS layer. These three layers need to be unified using the right level of hardware in order to benefit from the different solutions all together.
We are advising our partners (service providers) on how to leverage Open Source innovations. Many operators aren’t aware of its crucial role, which is essentially - helping avoid vendor lock-in scenarios. We want them to stop thinking of their past software investments as being lost, but instead realise they can be used as the foundation to future endeavours within this evolving market. In a nutshell, we are showing them how to best utilise proprietary VNFs using Open Source innovations.
How are you delivering the benefits of open source to your customers?
When thinking about the market today, it is important to note that hardware still remains relevant, contrary to what some vendors believe. When transitioning to SDN and NFV, hardware is a key component. Although operators continuously compete with one another on acquiring the same customers, they intermittently collaborate nevertheless. If they wish to extend their footprint to other countries and expand their Point-of-Presence (POP) for example, they are obliged to work together. This is where hardware plays an impactful role in allowing service providers to be more scalable and agile. With our flagship product SYMKLOUD, we offer operators a rare mix of ingredients that not only facilitate the possibility of leveraging Open Source and proprietary services, but bring density of services, scalability and significant cost savings during that expansion and transformation towards SDN/NFV.
Core networking functions such as MPLS and Mobile Networking such as vRAN/Cloud-RAN or vEPC open up many possibilities for operators to leverage different levels of services out of the same box and add density to these services. Take OpenStack for example. It typically will require 20RU (rack units) of equipment to support. SYMKLOUD gives our customers the capability to support OpenStack within a single 2U form factor, making one’s OpenStack footprint 10x lower. Our open services platform is truly “open” and combines other Open Source innovations from our partners. As a result, operators become much more competitive and can benefit from impactful reductions on OPEX and CAPEX.
What is it that differentiates your architecture for NFV and what makes you stand out?
Not only are we offering customers a high-density platform, we are reducing their operational costs. We have a compact piece of hardware that can support up to 18 servers on a 2U form factor, and up to 288 VNFs running at the same time on the same platform. This allows operators to grow much faster with a leaner approach. When you consider the growth of an operator’s business, you typically think of racks upon racks of equipment; however it is now possible to grow drastically while reducing Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) with SYMKLOUD. In order to achieve this successfully, operators must avoid the more obvious solutions such as Xeon E5 processors on the market and perhaps consider going for the Xeon D instead. These processors offer the best compromise between performance and density.
Another point worth noting is our unique position in the NFV market. Many hardware vendors – Cisco, Huawei, Ericsson, Juniper Networks, Nokia – are all focusing on Tier-1 operators, for good reason. The volume typically comes from these companies. However, there are approximately 3000-6000 operators on the planet that have been overlooked by these massive hardware players and most of them fall under Tier-2 or 3 categories. Kontron has decided to go a different route and has made the Tier-2s and 3s our main focus. We differentiate ourselves by providing them with the tools to be more innovative and faster.
Could you detail the level of collaboration involved in your partnership model?
This is another area where our position is very different from many hardware vendors out there. Firstly, we don’t do VNFs – the orchestration service layer belongs to other people. However, we do bring something very unique to the market, and that is, we give service providers and enterprises the possibility to leverage any NFVi software currently available. There is a lot of potential for licence-based services like VMWare or Azure Stack but also more Open Source routes such as OpenStack / Kubernetes + Docker. We see the evolution of the SDN/NFV market to be primarily focused on collaboration.
The collaboration that we put forward on the NFVi layer has one main element. We provide the hardware and support different software solutions including Ubuntu (Canonical) OpenStack, that we natively integrate onto our 2U form factor flagship product, SYMKLOUD. Additionally, we manage and support OpenStack release lifecycles. With regard to partnerships with orchestration service layer vendors, we recently announced our strategic partnership with Inocybe Technologies, who are trying to shake up this business. We are also working with 6Wind DPDK for virtual acceleration and we’ve forged partnerships focused on the VNF layer with Juniper Networks, Fortinet, Check Point and Ribbon Communications (previously known as GENBAND). We offer different possibilities for operators to smoothly transform towards SDN/NFV.
We are backed by a growing catalogue of VNF partners and a sound foundation in carrier cloud OS solutions, therefore we really have become an ideal partner to help CSPs work out the hardware and software white box solutions they require.
How is the market today changing people’s perceptions of SDN and NFV compared to a few years ago?
At the moment of inception, the service provider community considered SDN and NFV as the best possible way to decrease CAPEX and OPEX very rapidly. Now, people are having more profound discussions around this and realising that although the transformation to SDN is certainly bright, the elements required to optimise one’s CAPEX and OPEX are a little bit more complex.
On one side, the market shows signs of many innovations coming from the Open Source community, such as OpenStack, Containers and ONAP, that all play a vital role in unifying vendor VNF services and orchestrations. On the other side, we see more and more software vendors pushing lock-in strategies, forcing service providers to purchase their stack of top-to-bottom services software. Kontron’s role here is to help SPs make the right choices as well as encourage them to avoid those lock-in scenarios by providing the right hardware and software ingredients.
It is a very interesting time with respect to the service provider and open source innovator’s relationship. They have both reached a new level of collaboration built on trust that has never been seen before.
Luc-Yves Pagal Vinette is the Global Business Development Executive & SDN/NFV Subject Matter Expert at Kontron.