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As NFV Displaces Dedicated Network Functions, Who is Managing Service Levels?

by Juniper Employee on ‎09-07-2017 05:00 AM

As NFV gains mainstream production status across carriers and service providers worldwide, important facts about the realities of a software-defined network world are coming to light.


Service levels for network functions—more commonly referred to as “service assurance”—is a concept created in the days when network functions were anything but virtual. These network services were tied to physical devices, and that hardware was “assured” to deliver its assigned “services” at a specified up-time.


In NFV, those now-virtualized network functions—or VNFs—must still meet desired service targets in order for the network to support its assigned applications at expected levels.


Fortunately, this is not an entirely new challenge. We’ve seen this before in the early days of server virtualization, and the concepts learned there can be instructive. Application and infrastructure monitoring software was created to use log data, statistics and alarms to help data center operators isolate infrastructure problems and spin up new resources, hopefully before things got too hairy and started impacting the user experience.


Unfortunately for network operators, that’s where the usefulness of server monitoring software is limited. The latency embedded in monitoring tools used for server virtualization—often several minutes—is several orders of magnitude too slow to be of much use in network operations, where latencies of more than a few seconds can mean the difference between a VNF meeting its assigned service levels, or failing altogether.


To complicate matters further, this low tolerance for latency means that human intervention in the remediation loop can be a barrier to effective management. If a service degradation is detected, the time for a human to respond to an alarm might be too long to keep application performance from suffering. This is compounded in a 5G world, where IoT and edge cloud computing drive huge network traffic volumes and an increased sensitivity to latency. All of this means that what is needed is intent-driven automation, where the human defines the targets to be met and the general remediation strategies that the system will follow.


Also, consider how VNFs scale - horizontal scaling means that you need visibility into how performance varies as you roll out new network services and the ability to track latency changes as new resources are spun up. Having this insight helps operators maintain uptime and performance levels as they scale, smoothly adding new functions as application demand grows.


Let’s complicate this further. Operators might not know precisely where infrastructure supporting a specific set of VNFs is running. They might not even know what other services are running on specific nodes if the environment is shared.


Two things are needed to meet these challenges. First, we need monitoring designed to operate in a real-time world, and second we need to automate the remediation process when VNFs begin to fail.


Day 1 Becomes Day 2

The design and deployment of a virtualized network environment is a technical challenge, to be sure. But I believe the products and support available for this process have stabilized and matured such thatstanding up the environment is the smaller challenge businesses will face. The operational issues surrounding keeping the network services running at prescribed levels is the “day 2” challenge, and it’s not trivial.


What’s needed is monitoring software built for this reality. Smart people are working on tools to address this, including the Juniper Networks engineers working on our Appformix product.. Popular open source tools from the server virtualization world like Zabbix and Nagios rely on human-generated static pre-configuration. A newer generation of commercial tools like DataDog are designed with flexible schemas that allow for the applications to emit bits of OS-level performance information that are monitored, offering a first step towards automated outlier detection.


(For a description of how outlier and anomaly detection works, check out Homin Lee’s excellent presentation from OSCON last year.)


A tool that gives you real-time visibility into what your infrastructure and network services are delivering, however, is still pretty rare. Juniper Networks’ approach uses machine learning to get closer to this near-zero latency goal. We’re also leveraging Resource Director Technology (RDT) in the more recent Intel(r) Xeon(r) processor families to manage VNF workloads in the metal, extracting performance data from the processor instead of the management software. This shaves precious milliseconds off the latency problem.


What’s Your “Blast Radius?”

What’s important to keep in mind here is that the stakes are much higher than in the world of server virtualization. Problems at the application layer, almost by definition, impact only that application. When a network function fails or begins performing poorly—regardless of the reason—the “blast radius” of that failure can be catastrophically large, impacting a host of services and applications further up the stack.


In a 5G network, the volume of traffic and the number of connected devices can make a foundational network performance degradation catastrophic. All the more reason why you need to detect and remediate *much* faster than many tools created to monitor server virtualization can deliver.


Virtual Environments are Dynamic Environments

Both VNFs and the infrastructure they run on are constantly changing in these dynamic new network environments. Monitoring tools based on server virtualization technology that uses static thresholds are insufficient in this reality. Developers and operators need tools that understand the context of what’s happening in the applications and the infrastructure, from both bottom-up and top-down views, and those tools need to dynamically automate management of services in real-time.


Service assurance in a world of virtual network functions is a fundamentally different animal than when network functions were tied to dedicated hardware. What’s needed for success in this new world—especially as 5G looms on the horizon—is real-time monitoring where remedial action is automated based on rules optimized by machine learning, with operations personnel providing an oversight role.




Sumeet Singh is Vice President of Engineering at Juniper Networks and the founder of AppFormix.

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About the Author
  • Prior to Juniper acquisition, Ankur was the Founder and CEO of Contrail Systems Inc - a pioneer in standards based network virtualization and scale-out networking software. Ankur has over 15 years of experience in building world-class networking products and leading high performance teams. Prior to Contrail, Ankur served as Chief Technology Officer and VP of Engineering at Aruba Networks, where he played critical roles in the rapid expansion of team, products, and global businesses. Before Aruba, Ankur helped drive Juniper’s initial entry into and expansion of the Ethernet Switching market. Ankur received his MSEE from Stanford University & BSEE from the University of Southern California.
  • David Noguer Bau is the head of Telco Vertical Marketing at the SP Strategic Marketing team in Juniper Networks. He has extensive experience in Service Provider network evolution and regularly runs executive sessions with technical and marketing teams of important telecom operators to accelerate the adoption of virtualisation. David is based in Barcelona and has over 15 years of experience in the telecommunications sector. Prior joining Juniper Networks, Mr. Noguer Bau spent seven years at Nortel where he was a Business Development Manager specializing in Carrier Ethernet and Broadband areas. Before Nortel he worked at Eicon-Dialogic as Technical Manager in Spain. David has been the Country Marketing Chair at Metro Ethernet Forum for Spain. Mr. Noguer has wide experience speaking at international Conferences. He was graduated as Computer Engineer by Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona (UAB) and has an executive MBA from EADA Barcelona and executive education at the Thunderbird School of Global Management (Arizona) and the Henley Business School (UK). The views expressed here are my personal opinions , have not been reviewed or authorized by Juniper Networks and do not necessarily represent the views of Juniper Networks.
  • Donyel Jones-Williams is the Director of Service Provider Product Marketing Management overseeing all of Juniper's Service Provider Products for Juniper Networks. In this role, he leads all of the internal and external marketing activities for Juniper with respect to routing, automation, SDN and NFV. Prior to joining Juniper Networks in January 2014, Donyel was a Senior Product Line Manager for Cisco Systems with in the High End Optical Routing Group managing product lifecycle for multiple products lines helping telecom providers operate efficiently and effectively including; ONS 155xx Product Family, ONS 15216, ONS 15454 MSTP, Carrier Packet Transport Product Family, ME 2600x, & ASR 9000v. He also negotiated favorable agreements with 3rd-party vendors furnishing components and parts and conducted both outbound and inbound marketing (webinars, case study-development, developed and delivered both business & technical at Cisco Live 2005-2012). Donyel graduated from California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science. While attending Cal Poly SLO he was a collegiate student athlete playing football as a wide receiver and a key member of the National Society of Black Engineers. Donyel is now an active volunteer for V Foundation.
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  • Jennifer Blatnik is vice president of cloud, security and enterprise portfolio marketing at Juniper Networks with focus on enterprise deployments of security, routing, switching, and SDN products, as well as cloud solutions. She has more than 20 years of experience helping enterprises solve network security challenges. Before joining Juniper, Jennifer served multiple roles at Cisco Systems, Inc., including directing product management for security technologies aimed at small to medium enterprises, as well as supporting managed services, cloud service architectures and go-to-market strategies. She holds a B.A. in Computer Science from University of California, Berkeley.
  • Jerry oversees all aspects of OpenLab which serves as a catalyst to spark the development of new innovative software applications or solutions that leverage the power of SDN/network programmability and intelligence. OpenLab is unique within Juniper and with its polished facility, globally accessible lab, and educational programs – such as the SDN “hackathons,” it serves as a tool for customer, partners, and academia. Prior to this position, Jerry led the development, management and marketing of the company’s strategic partnerships for video/unified communications, optical networking, and content/media delivery. In addition to handling the day-to-day oversight of the partnerships, he established new cross-partner go-to-market processes to drive and manage joint field opportunities. Before joining Juniper, Jerry led the Lucent Technologies application hosting/service provider marketing organization. He has over 25 years of experience in the data networking field with a focus on strategic alliance development, marketing, and technical field support. Jerry possesses a BS degree in Computer Science from St. John’s University in New York. He is active as a Juniper ambassador within the technology and academic community which includes advisory board positions with both NJIT and Rutgers in New Jersey.
  • I have been in the networking industry for over 35 years: PBXs, SNA, Muxes, ATM, routers, switches, optical - I've seen it all. Twelve years in the US, over 25 in Europe, at companies like AT&T, IBM, Bay Networks, Nortel Networks and Dimension Data. Since 2007 I have been at Juniper, focusing on solutions and services: solving business problems via products and projects. Our market is characterized by amazing technological innovations, but technology is no use if you cannot get it to work and keep it working. That is why services are so exciting: this is where the technology moves out of the glossy brochures and into the real world! Follow me on Twitter: @JoeAtJuniper For more about me, go to my LinkedIn profile:
  • Mark Belk is the National Government Chief Architect at Juniper Networks
  • Mike Marcellin is Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, leading the global marketing team responsible for marketing Juniper’s product and services portfolio and stewarding the brand, driving preference for Juniper in the market, training our partners and account teams, and developing a differentiated information experience for our customers. Before joining the global marketing organization, Marcellin led business strategy and marketing for Juniper’s industry-leading portfolio of high-performance routing, switching and security products. Prior to joining Juniper in 2010, Marcellin served as Vice President of Global Managed Solutions for Verizon, where he oversaw product development and marketing of its managed IP networking, hosting, security and IT solutions for businesses around the world. He also served as Vice President of Global Product Marketing for Verizon Business, executive director of Verizon Business’ IP and Ethernet portfolio as well as leading the company’s eCRM marketing division. Marcellin began his career with MCI in 1994. Marcellin is a Board Member for the Telecommunications Industry Association and a Board Member of US Ignite, an NSF-sponsored initiative. Marcellin holds two patents and was a Rodman Scholar at the University of Virginia, where he received a bachelor of science degree with distinction in systems engineering. He is based in Sunnyvale, California.
  • I love the intracacy and intimacy of succesful communications. Why and how people engage with each other is fascinating. I am also consumed with the way IT changes behaviours, values and expectations in society. I bring this sense of wonder to my role in EMEA Service Provider Marketing Programs at Juniper Networks. Down time: My passions are music, reading, politics, Derby County and playing the guitar (and the harmonica). You can follow me elsewhere: twitter: @neilpound my personal blog: my LinkedIn account: Neil Pound
  • Paul Obsitnik is Vice President of Service Provider Marketing for Juniper Networks Platform Systems Division (PSD), responsible for the marketing of Juniper’s portfolio of high performance routing, switching, and data center fabric products to Service Providers globally. Paul's team is responsible for marketing strategy, product marketing, go-to-market planning, and competitive analysis worldwide for the Service Provider segment. Obsitnik has extensive experience in marketing, sales and business development positions with a proven track record in creating technology markets. He has served in senior marketing and sales management positions at several companies including BridgeWave Communications, ONI Systems, NorthPoint Communications and 3Com. Paul holds a Bachelor of Science with Honors in Electrical Engineering from the United States Naval Academy and a Master of Business Administration from the Harvard Graduate School of Business. Obsitnik is based in Sunnyvale, California.
  • Praful Lalchandani is a Product Manager at Juniper Networks focussing on the Data Center portfolio. Praful is a seasoned veteran in the networking industry, with experience spanning over 15 years building networking products and helping service providers, cloud providers and enterprises with their networking requirements.
  • Pratik Roychowdhury currently leads product management for Juniper's SDN and Cloud Software product namely Contrail. He has been with Juniper Networks for the last six years, leading product management activities for Juniper’s Network Virtualization and Network Programmability products and taking some of these products from concept to release. Overall, Pratik has spent 16+ years in the hi-tech industry assuming various roles including product development at Citrix, strategy & product management at early stage start-ups, and technology investment banking at UBS. Pratik has a B.Tech in Electrical Engineering from Indian Institute of Technology and an MBA from Univ of Michigan, Ann Arbor (Ross School of Business).
  • VP of engineering, Juniper Networks & founder, AppFormix Entrepreneur and founder with successful exits from two networking startups. Sumeet holds more than 20 patents with technologies implemented in shipping products and has received numerous awards from organizations as diverse as MIT and Interop. His AppFormix team at Juniper Networks is shipping an automated, real-time monitoring environment that uses AI and machine learning to autonomously mitigate application and network function issues before they impact QoS or user experience.