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GigaSpaces, Metaswitch Unveil NFV Lab

The two vendors expect the lab will enable network engineers to more quickly learn about deploying and managing NFV environments.

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GigaSpaces Technologies and Metaswitch are launching an on-demand lab to help network engineers become better informed about deploying and managing network-functions virtualization environments.

The companies want to give users a cheaper and easier way to learn about network-functions virtualization (NFV) by offering on-demand access to a fully configured lab. GigaSpaces officials first announced the NFV Lab in April during the OpenStack Summit, and now GigaSpaces and Metaswitch are showing off the lab at the Metaswitch Forum 2016 user conference this week in Scottsdale, Ariz.

The NFV Lab offers a private OpenStack environment, the Cloudify open-source TOSCA-based cloud orchestration platform and the Clearwater open-source vIMs virtualized network function (VNF) project. Through the lab, users not only can learn about NFV, but also can create their first VNF deployment for free. Operators hope the lab will help accelerate the learning and adoption of NFV.

"Operators of large networks need an easily accessible resource to help their engineers learn about NFV," GigaSpaces CTO Nati Shalom said in a statement. "That's what the NFV Lab is all about. In minutes, experienced network engineers can be working live in a dev/test ready environment, without the hassle, time and expense of setting up their own lab. It removes a huge barrier to learning."

NFV and software-defined networking (SDN) are changing the way networks are deployed and managed. They promise more agile, programmable and scalable networks by putting the control plane and network tasks into software.

In an interview on the Gartner Website in February, Martina Kurth, research director for Gartner, said both NFV and SDN will have a significant impact on the market, particularly among communications service providers (CSPs), over the next several years.

"Existing network and operational infrastructures cannot provide the flexibility required to enable and run new digital services, such as those related to the Internet of things … or machine-to-machine communications (M2M)," Kurth said. "A network architecture that was designed for millions of humans making voice calls is simply not suitable to reliably allow billions of devices (or 'things') to communicate in near-real time. This will trigger significant investments in more agile, cloud-centric, software-driven infrastructures for CSPs."

CSPs worldwide are evaluating the technologies or already have "lower-scale commercial projects," she said. They can expect "significant savings as they move away from expensive, dedicated, proprietary hardware toward the cheaper, general-purpose hardware that is typical of SDN implementations. This shift will also dramatically reduce the time it takes to 'switch on' new services, and will allow more flexibility in scaling resources in line with business demand."