NFV presents a massive opportunity for new software-only network elements for 5G. While different VNFs are obviously different, the following chart illustrates typical development efforts to build a VNF.
The Network Function itself comprises just a small portion of the total development effort. The DN Platform is a software package that contains the other functions illustrated in the above diagram. By utilizing the DN Platform, the VNF can be quickly developed.
At Definition Networks, we have built a base software platform (the DN Platform) that is compliant with the service-based architecture for 5G. Our VNFs are compliant with ONAP (Open Network Automation Platform) guidelines and requirements, and integrated with ONAP approved projects for OAM, HTTP load balancing, and message routing.
The DN Platform has been in development for over four years and is deployment-ready. We follow CI/CD (Continuous Integration / Continuous Delivery) development process that allows frequent releases with small changes. The process uses build and test automation tools to develop and test software on a continuous basis. Demonstration of our platform and application capabilities is available on a public cloud.
The DN Platform is designed specifically for carrier deployments in virtualized environments of 3GPP control plane Network Nodes for 5G and 4G networks. The DN Platform key features include the following.
- 5G interfaces, such as, support for NGAP (Next Generation Application Protocol for signaling transport of NAS messages between NG-RAN and 5G Core) and HTTP/2 (for service based access between 5G Nodes).
- 4G interfaces, such as, a robust Diameter stack and 3GPP Diameter applications.
- Service-based architecture, designed for cloud deployments, including automation and integration support for target virtualization environments like ONAP.
- Scalable, high performance with low latency database and transaction processing, necessary to support growing transaction rates associated with subscriber and service-utilization growth.
- Resiliency at both application and network level, including support for local redundancy to handle failure of components within a data center and geographic redundancy for catastrophic site level failure.
- Seamless software upgrade with no impact on application processing.
- FCAPS, with support for industry standard protocols like NETCONF, and support for REST APIs.
By using the DN Platform, carrier-class products for 3GPP control plane Network Nodes can be quickly developed and deployed. Not only does the DN Platform simplify the development of the 3GPP Network Nodes, but it also enables valuable applications to be quickly developed and deployed. The combination of Network Nodes and applications results in carrier-class products that provide benefits far beyond the standards specifications.
The DN Platform includes many, many components, as illustrated in the functional view of the DN Platform below.
The DN Platform comes with multiple subsystems, such as, OAM (FCAPS function), Data Store, Timer Management and Debug that can be easily integrated to quickly build a Virtual Network Function.
The Consumer Application is what the developer needs to create for a Network Function. We provide many other Consumer Applications within the platform, including the following.
- API-MSR Application
- FOTA Download Application
- Intelligent Scheduler Application
- MT SMS Delivery Application
- Location-Based Messaging Application
The above applications are described in our Solutions, as their purposes are for specific solutions to Operator problems.
DNEx is used as the underlying messaging protocol for API invocations to Timer and Protocol Balancer/Demux subsystems. KAFKA is used as the underlying messaging protocol when applications use the services of configuration, logging and alarms subsystems.
Our Data Store is used to save configuration, statistics and application transaction data.
Protocol Balancer/Demux subsystem provides external interface connectivity with support for various protocols, which are HTTP/1.1, HTTP/2.0, Diameter and NGAP. Protocol Balancer/Demux subsystem performs routing and load balancing functions to distribute load to various transaction processing microservices.
DN Platform comes with a MANO (Management and Orchestration) interface subsystem that be customized to integrate with different MANO platforms.
The DN Platform components are implemented as services and microservices, which can be independently scaled. Network Functions can be added as services or microservices, as well. Below, we illustrate how the Balancer/Demux microservice within the DN Platform can support a Network Function as either a single service or multiple microservices, by delivering relevant transactions to the appropriate service/microservice.
Microservice flexibility, using SCEF Network Function as an example
The SCEF Network Function performs the several SCEF services defined by 3GPP. All processing can be built into a single image. Through configuration on the DN Platform, all service requests can be directed to one set of services (as illustrated on the left, above). Alternatively, the DN Platform can direct requests for different services to different sets of processing (as illustrated on the right, above). This enables the Operator to define the microservice architecture that is most efficient to satisfy the Operator’s needs.
Small footprint microservices result in improved scalability, and more efficient packaging on the servers of the virtualization system. Splitting a service into microservices also has the advantage of allowing frequent and small updates for selected microservices, while other microservices are unaffected.
Two dominant platforms for MANO are OSM (Open Source MANO) and ONAP. OSM’s focus is primarily on Orchestration of VNF and Service Orchestration and has narrower focus being in-line with ETSI NFV. ONAP, apart from being in-line with ETSI NFV, also focuses on integration aspects with applications providing closed loop integration with the MANO, using projects like DCAE (Data Collection, Analytics and Events) and CLAMP (Closed Loop Automation Management Platform). ONAP collaborates with OPNFV (Open Platform for NFV) for approved VIMs to interface with NFVIs.
As there are many differences among the MANOs, the DN Platform uses a MANO Abstraction Library. This allows the differences to be isolated from the bulk of the software within the DN Platform.
The DN Platform integrates with the external VNF Manager for closed loop automation to manage lifecycle of VNF. The DN Platform provides metrics related to scaling criteria to the VNF Manager, which then launches or relinquishes VNF components of the system.
The DN Platform has been integrated with Open Source ONAP and is compliant to the ONAP interfaces defined for VNF lifecycle management, configuration and monitoring. The DN Platform interfaces with ONAP DCAE to providing the scaling event, which then invokes the Policy subsystem to trigger the scale out operation through the CLAMP subsystem. The DN Platform is also integrated with ONAP projects APPC and VF-C to provide the necessary REST API and NETCONF command support for ONAP to perform health-check, lifecycle management and configuration operations on the VNF.
For vendors interested in using our DN Platform for their own developments, please Contact Us to request further information.