The role of a fast database in the NFV revolution
Innovation in the telecommunications industry has been led primarily by hardware vendors, offering differentiating capabilities to carriers. This has created an environment of vendor lock-in and staggered progress due to lack of agility.
A side effect of this is equipment and infrastructure obsolescence at a rate that is not desirable for carriers. At the same time, a model that delivers agility in the software industry is emerging in cloud-enabled services and service-oriented architectures (SOA).
Historically, organisations rely on cross-pollination of innovative ideas across industries. When the telecom industry looked to replicate cloud enablement in the network functions space, a natural evolution in architectures arose. This evolution is seeing hardware commoditisation, broader access to standards-based, well-known interfaces, and increased use of software to provide functionality formerly supplied in proprietary hardware platforms, says Dheeraj Remella, director of Solutions Architecture, VoltDB.
The result, the emergence and adoption of the twin concepts of Software Defined Networking (SDN) and Network Function Virtualisation (NFV), is gaining traction in the telecommunications industry.
According to standards body ETSI, the primary challenges that need to be addressed to modernise the telco industry are:
- Ensuring that virtualised functions are simpler to operate than what exists today
- Achieving high-performance virtualised network appliances without compromising portability
- Achieving co-existence with legacy systems while enabling a phased transition to a fully-virtualised environment
- Management and Orchestration (MANO) of virtual appliances
- Maintaining stability and service levels without degradation during load and relocation
- Since virtualisation naturally affects the cloud and distributed computing, resilience to hardware and software failures must be improved
- Portability of appliances without the need for recompilation
- Allowing a design to render itself for future developments and standards
- Minimising energy consumption.
ETSI proposed the following architecture, represented diagrammatically:
What is not apparent in this diagram, but becomes so on digging deeper, is that the right hand side, commonly referred to as MANO (VNF Manager, Orchestrator and Virtualised Infrastructure Manager) benefits immensely from the support of Software-Defined Network implementations.
SDN can support NFV efforts by enabling a scalable implementation of policy enforcement and micro-services architectures for service chaining and traffic engineering, e.g., computing least-cost routing. These capabilities require a data-driven representation of policies, network metadata and route cost information. In this area, VoltDB assisted a number of telecom organisations implementing NFV in their respective premises.
VoltDB is a highly scalable distributed relational database purpose built for low latency, high throughput transactional workloads. Few industries require lower latency than telecom, and fewer still need to perform complex computations on every event that occurs in the data flow chain.
Micro-services architectures readily render themselves useful in NFV environments; often containerisation comes up as the next topic of discussion.
What becomes apparent very quickly is the need for separation of concerns between the infrastructure components (Compute, Storage and Network elements virtualisation) and the metadata that has to be used to drive the policies and compute network traffic.
VoltDB, a horizontally-scalable distributed database that performs at carrier grade throughputs and predictable latencies, becomes an automatic choice as the database to hold the metadata.
In addition, as a unified database and single/multi event-processing layer, VoltDB is a great alternative to a complex, multi-layer, hard to maintain, stitched together open source mélange of technologies like streaming engines and non-transactional data stores, which require separate cluster management software.
For these reasons, Nokia chose VoltDB as the underlying database in its OpenTAS (Open Telecom Application Server) platform.
By choosing VoltDB as the Shared Data Layer, Nokia’s telco cloud is able to:
- Scale to meet unpredictable data traffic with a minimal data layer footprint
- Leverage VoltDB’s MPP architecture and transactional processing to keep processing closer to the data – in the database
- Reduce total cost of ownership compared to traditional databases while supporting predictable scalability.
With VoltDB, Nokia is uniquely positioned to deliver on the promise of 5G (ms latency and 10Gbps data rates) in its cloud and Internet of Things initiatives.
To learn more about how your organisation can leverage VoltDB for your NFV initiatives, feel free to reach out to us at email@example.com.
The author of this blog is Dheeraj Remella, director of Solutions Architecture, VoltDB
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