NFV and DevOps Converging to Bring Telecom Lessons to the Enterprise

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American poet Robert Frost began “The Road Not Taken” with “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood.” But when looking at the quickening pace of transformation in NFV, it might be more appropriate for us to talk about how the two roads of NFV and DevOps are beginning to converge.

Forgive the lyrical mashup, but there is something poetic happening as the technologies and business models that underpin network virtualization mature. In the year ahead, we’re going to see the convergence of NFV and DevOps—developed by telecoms—making its move into enterprises. This “Enterprise NFV” shift will benefit enterprise operators of large, global networks and hybrid cloud deployments.

Telecoms like AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, Telefonica, and China Mobile embraced NFV in 2016, driven by the maturity of open source projects like OPNFV, Cloudify, ARIA, Open-O, OpenStack, and Kubernetes. At the same time, the business models for VNFs are beginning to modernize, adapting to fit modern, scale-out design principles. The result of these shifts is that enterprise operators of big networks are beginning to pay attention to what service providers have achieved with NFV.

This enterprise NFV shift allows for network management and orchestration services to become an integrated part of the application design and deployment process—DevOps. In essence, Enterprise NFV allows the network to “follow the app” through its lifecycle, automatically and dynamically configuring network services to facilitate application development, testing and scaling.

A simple example of this can be seen in the initial deployment of an application to a private cloud. That application is likely to need network changes like configuration of security groups, changing firewall rules, installing and configuring load balancers, DNS operations and IPAM management. Open source tools like Cloudify provide all the NFV orchestration needed to support this deployment in a DevOps setting, automating installation and deployment, monitoring of KPIs, and auto-healing and auto-scaling based on those KPIs.

That’s a reasonable example to illustrate how NFV and DevOps are already uniting for telecoms. Now, let’s consider a more complex—and more likely—scenario that we’ll see more and more of in 2017: hybrid cloud NFV for large enterprises.

As enterprises increasingly adopt hybrid cloud in the year ahead, they face a new level of network operations complexity. NFV and DevOps offer compelling benefits for scenarios like bursting, where the network must be automatically and dynamically reconfigured to adjust load balancing and traffic steering and to re-configure firewall rules and implement routing changes.

Similar to bursting, blue/green operations refers to load sharing between two clouds, which is useful for testing new applications or version in a controlled setting. It demands automated network reconfigurations as applications move from dev/test into production. The merger of NFV and DevOps gives enterprises using blue/green a telecom-proven approach to achieve this.

Enterprises benefiting from the union of NFV and DevOps in 2017 will look to standards-based orchestration to get them there, just like telecoms have with standards like TOSCA and open source orchestrators like Cloudify. Enterprises likely will want just one NFV orchestration manager, one that supports application deployment across multiple clouds (from VMware to OpenStack) as well as multiple data centers and availability zones.

The lessons of NFV and DevOps are moving from telecoms to the enterprise in the year ahead. By this time next year, it will no longer be “the road less traveled,” but rather a well-marked path for enterprises embracing DevOps and hybrid cloud. Choosing this path will make all the difference, and you want to choose it before your competitors do.

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