November 3, 2016

Read the article on HPE's OpenNFV blog here.


Network functions virtualization (NFV) has promised us many things- lower operational costs, increased interoperability with best of breed vendors as well as decreased vendor lock-in, and lastly, but most importantly, increased agility and faster time to revenue for new network services – the real driver behind virtualization.

The fully programmable, virtualized networks of tomorrow will experience a great increase in their rate of change – the lifespan of a service will no longer be in the 18+ month timeframe. Service lifespans of a couple months or even just days will become the norm. With these increasing rates of change, risk factors also increase substantially, as well as the potential for network issues or failure and unhappy customers. Therefore, it will be of key importance to balance the agility and operational efficiency of your programmable network with customer experience. So how do you ensure that you can sustain this happy balance between agility, operational efficiency and unparalleled customer experience? Hint: it no longer has to be “You can pick only 2”.

Figure 1: The balancing act in programmable networks

To maintain those “ancient” 18+ month old network services, manual processes, proprietary hardware equipment, and field engineers with expensive truck rolls were used. As the lifespan of these services is shortened significantly with automation and programmability built into virtualized networks, the same methods of testing and troubleshooting will no longer be effective or make sense financially. Not only will they become more costly in terms of operational and capital expense, they will also effect customer satisfaction as thorough activation testing and quality monitoring of these short lived services would become nearly impossible – operators must deliver assured services right the first time. In addition, assuring quality through testing after each and every minor update would not be feasible.

The use of Virtual Test Agents (VTAs), as an active network analytics and assurance solution, deployed on virtual infrastructure like HPE Helion OpenStack Carrier Grade, allows operators to conceive of a new service, design and order it, and then introduce the new assured service to customers in a fraction of the time it once took with manual equipment and processes.

Take the use case of deploying a new WAN connection for an enterprise. Today, in a physical network, it takes approximately several weeks to months from order to configuration, and then another couple of weeks to complete manual activation testing on the service before go live. In this scenario, go live consists of a small number of beta customers, so if issues are detected and customer service is impacted with the initial release of this service intended to “live” for 18+ months, the repercussions are not so catastrophic. Assurance enablement then takes another couple of weeks.

As some automation is introduced into the network, the fulfillment, or order to configuration, portion of the new service delivery can now be orchestrated, and the time it takes from order to completed configuration shrinks from months to just minutes. As manual testing tools and processes are still being used, activation testing takes, on average, around two weeks, followed by several weeks for assurance enablement. We can assume that again, this service will survive for some time.

The next and final step towards finding the balance between agility, optimal operational efficiency and, the number one goal, exceptional customer experience with short-lived, highly profitable agile services is orchestrated assurance, where activation testing can be completely automated and designed into the lifecycle management and delivery of the service through integration of the test and assurance solution with the service or NFV orchestrator.

Figure 2: Time from order to cash of an assured service today and with orchestrated assurance.Time from order to cash of an assured service today and with orchestrated assurance

The Netrounds active network analytics solution can be remotely controlled through a complete read-write API by service or NFV orchestrators, such as HPE’s NFV or Service Director, enabling operators to implement completely orchestrated assurance and deploy a new, assured service in significantly less time than is possible with manual tools.

Balance between agility, operational efficiency and customer experience is achieved, the service is deployed, and your happy customers are now connected on their new WAN link at the office, or maybe even successfully battling other trainers at the local Poke Gym with their new zero-rated Pokemon service.

Learn more about Netrounds’ engagement with the HPE OpenNFV Partner Program in this Netrounds' press release.

For more on active Netrounds’ network analytics and assurance solution and how you can deploy orchestrated assurance on HPE’s NFV platform, please contact info@netrounds.com or visit www.netrounds.com.

Kaela Loffler, Director, Marketing & Industry Alliances, Netrounds