Dell Unveils Open Platform for NFV

The vendor also introduces two starter kits that carriers can use to run tests or PoCs for NFV environments.


Dell is rolling out its network-functions virtualization platform with the goal of giving telecommunications companies an open solution they can use to accelerate their deployments of the technology.

At the same time, Dell officials on Oct. 14 also unveiled network-functions virtualization (NFV) starter kits in hopes of fueling the development of trials and proofs-of-concept (PoCs) by service providers.

Dell's entrance into the increasingly competitive NFV space comes as the vendor expands its Open Networking initiative around network virtualization and software-defined networking (SDN), and is part of its larger efforts to become a major enterprise IT solutions and services provider. Networking is a key element of that strategy.

SDN and NFV both offer the promise of enabling more programmable, automated and agile networks to meet the changing demands brought on by such trends as mobile computing, big data and the cloud. SDN essentially decouples the control plane from the underlying networking gear and houses it in software.

NFV is aimed more at telecoms and service providers, taking network services—such as load balancing, intrusion detection, VPN and firewalls—from complex and expensive networking hardware and putting them into software, creating applications that can run on commodity systems. Currently, a key problem is that a broad array of vendors—from established network industry players to startups—are throwing a lot of technology into the mix, according to Arpit Joshipura, vice president of product management and NFV strategy at Dell.

The result is that service providers are forced to integrate these pieces themselves in hopes of creating a complete NFV environment.

"There are a lot of solutions in the marketplace," Joshipura told eWEEK. "They have to use this to do [step] No. 1, use this for No. 2. … Carriers are confused how to build a full infrastructure using NFV."

Dell's NFV platform is designed to bring many of these elements together in a simpler, more streamlined and more open offering that leverages technology from both Dell and third-party vendors, he said. The platform is highly scalable for use in a wide range of carrier environments, and includes software and open interfaces for management and orchestration (MANO) and simpler integration.

The NFV platform includes PowerEdge servers running on Intel's E5-2600 v3 "Grantley" chips, which launched in September, and Dell's Open Networking solutions, supplying the open commodity systems that will run many NFV deployments. The platform can scale up, down or out, making it useful in everything from small offices to central sites to hyperscale data centers, and can accommodate everything from containerized solutions to environments for Network Equipment-Building System (NEBS) platform and fresh-air systems.

It also supports a wide range of open-source software. Dell and Red Hat will work together to offer NFV and SDN solutions based on OpenStack, and the two companies will demonstrate NFV test gear at their customer labs, officials said. Joshipura and Jeff Baher, senior director of product marketing at Dell, said the platform also highlights the work Dell has done in the open-source world, including work with the Open Compute Project, OpenDaylight Project and Open Networking Forum. Dell also is a founding member of the OPNFV (Open Platform for NFV) Project, which launched in September. Other founding members include Intel, IBM, Cisco Systems, Hewlett-Packard and AT&T.

OPNFV is working to create an open-source reference platform for NFV.

Dell's NFV starter kits are designed for early adopters who want to run trials or PoCs. The two starter kits—one that leverages Dell's PowerEdge R630 1U (1.75-inch) servers and another that is based on Dell's M1000 blade chassis and M630 compute blades—include the company's S6000 10/40 Gigabit Ethernet Open Networking platform that includes support for the OpenFlow SDN protocol, Active Fabric Manager and Active Fabric Controller (which are compliant with OpenDaylight's releases), Dell's Foglight and OpenManage network manager, either Linux or OpenStack distributions, and options for data plane acceleration and service chaining.