Network Function Virtualization (nfvrg)

Interim Meeting of 2015-12-01

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Charter (as of 2015-12-02):


Network Function Virtualization (NFV) is a key emerging area for
network operators, hardware and software vendors, cloud service
providers, and in general network practitioners and researchers. This
area requires exploring new directions and working collaboratively on
how to create network services that utilize a virtualized
infrastructure. Network functions that are traditionally implemented
in dedicated hardware appliances will need to be decomposed and
executed in software elements running on cloud-based infrastructures.
One essential goal of this new approach is to reduce capital and
operating expenditures for future deployments for networks and
associated services. Another important goal is for the network
operators to be able to offer value added cloud services to their
customers. Finally, new business models will open for the provision of
network services.

The technologies enabling the virtualization of network functions
(NFs) are currently in an early stage, and they need researchers to
develop new architectures, systems, and software, and to explore
trade-offs and possibilities for leveraging virtualized infrastructure
to provide support for network functions. The Network Function
Virtualization Research Group (NFVRG) will bring together researchers
and grow the community around the world in both academia and industry
to explore this new research area. Beyond the direct activity through
the IRTF collaboration tools it will organize research group meetings
and workshops at premier conferences (such as IEEE ICC, IEEE GLOBECOM)
and inviting special issues in well-known publications.

The NFVRG will focus on research problems associated with NFV-related
topics and on bringing a research community together that can jointly
address them, concentrating on problems that relate not just to
networking but also to computing and storage aspects in such
environments. It is hoped that the outcome of the research will
benefit research efforts in other groups within the IRTF (and
especially the SDNRG) and standardization activities of IETF WGs (like
the ones going in SFC). Specific results can also spawn activities via
IRTF & IETF BoF meetings and/or provide useful input to other related
efforts in the ETSI NFV ISG or other standards bodies.

Areas of Interest

* New network architectures based on virtualized network functions
(VNFs), including NF building from virtualized components

* NFV challenges in various cloud architectures (e.g., VNF intra- and
inter-cloud mobility)

* Network and service function chaining: architecture and
implementation (e.g., automation of VNF chain building, chaining of
VNFs and non-virtual NFs)

* Autonomous orchestration and optimization

* Requirements and mechanisms to ensure reliable virtual network
functions and services, in particular in what relates to failure
characterization and representation

* New operational models associated with NFV

* Infrastructure and NF description and programming (languages, APIs,
frameworks for combined processing, network and storage programming,
policy languages, etc.)

* Coexistence with non-virtualized infrastructure and services

* Virtualized network economics and business modeling

* Security, trust and service verification

* Performance modeling

* Real-time big data analytics and data-centric management of
virtualized infrastructure

* New application domains enabled by virtualized infrastructure and
services, including use cases across heterogeneous infrastructures
(wired, optical, cellular, satellite)

* End to end and system-wide optimization of compute, storage, network
and energy efficiency

* Exploration of infrastructure and service abstractions enabled by

* Real-time and novel monitoring techniques (for performance
guarantees, error and anomaly detection, smarter auto-scaling and
optimization in general, etc.)

The group will report progress through its wiki and presentations at
IETF and IRTF meetings. Relevant information and research developed by
the research group will be submitted for publication as Experimental
or Informational RFCs.

Near-Term Work Items

The group shall focus on a concrete list of near-term work items. For
each of the items mentioned below, the goal is to explore system
architecture, optimization, and open interfaces across components,
through experimental results, simulations, and/or real-world

1. Policy-Based Resource Management

NFV Point of Presence (PoP) will be likely constrained in compute and
storage capacity. Since practically all NFV PoPs are foreseen to be
distributed, inter-datacenter network capacity is also a constraint.
Additionally, energy is also a constraint, both as a general concern
for NFV operators, and in particular for specific-purpose NFV PoPs
such as those in mobile base stations. This work item will focus on
optimized resource management and workload distribution based on

2. Analytics for Visibility and Orchestration

Network functions should be supportable on general purpose commodity
hardware. Real-time monitoring and analytics providing insight into
various components such as compute (e.g., dynamic CPU utilization),
storage (e.g., dynamic capacity usage), network (e.g., dynamic
bandwidth utilization), energy (e.g., dynamic power consumption) are
key to not only providing visibility into the NFV infrastructure but
also optimizing resource usage for the purposes of orchestration. This
work item will contemplate techniques for the applicability of real-
time analytics.

3. Virtual Network Function (VNF) Performance Modeling to Facilitate
Transition to NFV

When migrating from hardware network appliances, which are typically
custom and monolithic, to virtualized software implementations running
on commodity hardware a challenge which is often faced is the need for
an equivalence model, especially in terms of performance. The work
item will consider this modeling.

4. Service Verification with Regards to Security and Resiliency

Reliability and security issues and relevant solutions related to the
nature of VNFs are the objectives of this work item.

NFV configuration is expected to be dynamic especially in the edge NFV
PoP where capacity is limited; a good example is the handling of viral
events such as mobile gaming application. While autonomic networking
techniques could be used to automate the configuration process
including modular updates, one needs to take into account that
incomplete and/or inconsistent configuration may lead to security and
reliability issues.

Accidental failures or intentional events such as distributed denial
of service (DDoS) attacks are “familiar” threats that could compromise
heavily the system, due to the dependency of NFV on a distributed
infrastructure. Thus the use of VNFs may well introduce additional
challenges to ensure the support of carrier grade reliability. In the
event of network and/or service degradation or failure, there must be
suitable coordination, fail-over, and recovery. These reliable NFV
mechanisms will also need tools and mechanisms to deploy and manage
capability, and close coordination with NFV resource management and
performance analytics is also expected. Elasticity of VNFs entails
dynamic scale up/down/out/in with awareness of the resiliency
considerations, a new scope as compared to the monolithic
implementation approach.

Furthermore, the envisaged deployment of arbitrary third-party VNF
applications on the network infrastructure of service providers raises
significant security concerns and poses challenges for VNF
verification in terms of functionality, security and stability under
well-defined procedures.