Verizon Touts Its OpenStack NFV Deployment

The carrier worked with Red Hat, Dell and Big Switch Networks to bring the project from concept to deployment in fewer than nine months.

NFV development

Verizon has launched what officials are calling the largest deployment of a network-functions virtualization OpenStack cloud deployment, a move that was done with the help of Red Hat, Dell and Big Switch Networks.

The effort happened quickly, with the project moving from concept to deployment in fewer than nine months, according to Verizon officials. The network-functions virtualization (NFV) deployment covers more than 50 racks in five production data centers. The project is part of a larger effort by Verizon to build a next-generation network for its cloud computing environment, according to Adam Koeppe, vice president of network technology planning for Verizon.

"New and emerging applications are highlighting the need for collaborative research and development in technologies like NFV," Koeppe said in a statement. "We consider this achievement to be foundational for building the Verizon cloud that serves our customers' needs anywhere, anytime, any app."

Executives from Verizon as well as Dell, Red Hat and Big Switch will talk about the project at the OpenStack Summit in Austin, Texas, which will run from April 25 to April 29.

Carriers and other service providers like Verizon and AT&T are working to rapidly transform their infrastructures and embrace technologies like cloud computing and network virtualization to address the increasing demand for network capacity, increase network agility and flexibility to more quickly spin out services for customers and employees, and drive down operating and capital expenses. Trends like mobile computing, data analytics, video, the cloud and competition from over-the-top (OTT) vendors are putting greater pressure on service providers to be more dynamic and responsive.

Networking technologies like NFV and software-defined networking (SDN) are designed to move the control plane and networking tasks from hardware into software, increasing responsiveness and driving down costs. There also is a push to adopt more open-source technologies, such as the OpenStack cloud architecture and open networking hardware efforts.

Analysts with IHS Infonetics in February noted some of the leading NFV vendors, with Michael Howard, senior research director and advisor for carrier networks at the firm, adding that "the big revenue opportunities in NFV are with big service providers who want a prime vendor or two that can put together all the multi-vendor software, hardware, partners and services to develop and deploy virtualization to help them meet their fairly urgent needs for automation, agility and services differentiation." Analysts with Research and Markets in December 2015 said they expect service provider investments in both NFV and SDN to grow on average 54 percent a year between 2015 and 2020, with revenues hitting $20 billion by 2020.

Verizon's NFV project began last year, with the carrier and its technology partners creating a design based on a core-and-pod architecture that officials said offers hyperscale capabilities and flexibility to help address the complex demands put on the network. The companies created large-scale test beds that mirrored the production design to validate the resiliency of the NFV pod design at scale.

The environment is being deployed at five of Verizon's data centers in the United States, with deployments in international locations expected to be rolled out over the next several months. The design also will be used in edge network sites by the end of the year, officials said.

The OpenStack project is based on Red Hat's Ceph Storage distribution, with a spine-leaf fabric for each pod being controlled through a Neutron plugin to Red Hat's OpenStack Platform, they said. In addition, Big Switch's Big Cloud Fabric for SDN controller software is used to manage Dell switches, which are orchestrated by the Red Hat OpenStack platform.

"More than ever before, it is imperative that leaders in our community work together to design, build and deploy pod designs that are both agile and resilient," Big Switch co-founder Kyle Forster said in a statement. "As OpenStack proves itself under intense conditions like those created by large-scale NFV workloads, it is increasingly important for an open and collaborative environment to deliver positive results."

Dell in recent days has made several announcements around OpenStack and networking efforts aimed at service providers. Last week the company unveiled the latest version of an OpenStack cloud solution co-engineered with Red Hat, and on April 25 officials said that at the OpenStack Summit, the company will offer demonstrations of its upcoming DSS 9000 rack-scale infrastructure that is aimed at carriers and service providers. The infrastructure, which officials said was inspired by hyperscale systems used by such Web-scale vendors as Google, Facebook and Amazon, was first introduced in February.