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Open Enterprise Network Functions Virtualization (NFV), a new frontier

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Bob P
Cisco Employee

The only constant is change, or is it?

Isn't it funny how the demands made on IT infrastructure, and those who maintain it have remained constant despite so much change?  The need to do more with less, and faster too, remain perpetual in our industry.  Added to this the proliferation of not just devices, but services and functions, compound the problem.

We have come a long way.  The rise of 'cloud' has been transformative and relentless.  It's provided new ways of implementing innovative services at a scale and speed previously undreamt.  The power of x86 has delivered flexibility to deliver compute intensive network functions in virtual form factors where previously dedicated hardware would have been needed.  This is a key enabler of Enterprise NFV.

On the human side, a business leader not convinced and vested in the benefits of digitization is a rare thing indeed, on the edge of extinction.  The Millennial generation has entered the workforce and brought a fresh perspective, indeed a new expectation, on how 'things should be done'.  They are unwilling to countenance unwieldly solutions requiring deep expertise in arcane configuration methods.  'Read the manual' isn't something that goes over well.  'Seasoned professionals' might bemoan Millennial's ADD-like tendencies, and worry their own expertise, developed through years of doing battle with IT infrastructure, is becoming devalued.  That's certainly one way of looking at, but there's another much more positive way of seeing this - really the industry is being forced to solve problems of its own making, problems and complexities that should never have been exposed (outside a lab) to begin with.  Here lies real opportunity, opportunity we are addressing through the Cisco Digital Network Architecture (DNA).

An Open Enterprise NFV Ecosystem

Jay's two-part blog well articulates the problems Enterprise NFV solves, how, and provides use cases, so I won't go into that here. Instead, let's explore how to further unlock the potential of NFV.

The power of Enterprise NFV lies in the proposition of reducing box count, negating the need for upgrade truck rolls, and decreasing mean time to deployment of new functions.

But these benefits cannot be fully realized unless the solution is multi-vendor.  To that end, Cisco has created an Open VNF certification program.  The goal is two-fold: to demonstrate Cisco is indeed open, it's not just a tagline; and to build customer confidence in choosing Cisco as the foundation for their NFV solution across the enterprise.

Certification

Cisco's NFV Open Ecosystem provides a certification path to vendors of any VNF serving a business function, irrespective of whether they're complementary or competitive to Cisco.  VNFs are tested against the same published test plan to ensure compatibility with one another and the underlying infrastructure.  For customers having a test need that goes above and beyond the scope of certification testing, for example, detailed multi-VNF feature interoperability or performance testing we offer a path forward that builds on the certification test effort already in place.

Cross company support

We've all been there, two vendors blaming one another, and you, caught in the middle! To avoid this our certification also puts in place a formal bilateral support channel between Cisco and the third-party vendor.  Cisco TAC can triage a problem, and if appropriate pass the call to the third-party for resolution.  This co-operation is, of course, two-way.

Which Vendors/VNFs are certified today?

The list of currently certified VNFs will be maintained on the Enterprise DNA pages of cisco.com.

The initial VNFs certified are:

chart2.PNG

My favourite vendor isn't listed!

If you have a preferred vendor that's not listed, that's OK.  We have a number of vendors in the testing pipeline, so more will be added constantly.  You can help too!  Point your vendor to this blog, or point them to our vendor-facing content and encourage them to talk to us. You can also let your account team know, or comment here.

Lastly

Certification is not *required* before you can run a particular VNF on Cisco infrastructure, so you're not limited in any way.  Rather, certification provides confidence things will work as intended, and enhanced support if they don't.

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