While SDN and NFV are the buzzwords of today, Lifecycle Service Orchestration is the wave of the future.
Customers can dynamically generate services now via a portal or use an API with the Lifecycle Service Orchestration (LSO) framework before the completion of the virtualization of network elements.
In the second part of a Q&A with Telco Transformation, Claudio Scola, director of global product marketing for Core Network Services, describes how Level 3 has used existing assets to orchestrate network resources for dynamic service generation. In Part I, Scola spoke about Level 3's approach to SD-WAN and network-as-a-service. (See Level 3's Scola Discusses SD-WAN for NaaS.)
Telco Transformation: Can you comment on the means used for orchestration of network elements in a programmable legacy network?
Claudio Scola: Lifecycle Service Orchestration (LSO) is the framework used for dynamically combining the elements of a service. The orchestration can happen before the standardization of network elements and their virtualization. Tail-f, which was acquired by Cisco, is one vendor that provides the controllers with CLI adapters for orchestration in a legacy environment. Our controllers can use the adapters to translate commands for legacy equipment. Some dedicated equipment supports the NETCONF protocol with the YANG API data model and therefore does not need a CLI adaptor.
There are a range of vendors out there that are providing controllers and orchestrators. Typically, several vendors might be chosen depending on what kind of infrastructure they need to control. For example, you might have a controller for MPLS, another for Optical Transport, SD-WAN, Voice/UC&C (Unified communications and collaboration) and others. They would all have southbound APIs to the overall orchestrator, and we built our orchestrator in-house.
It is important to note that you still need your application layer above your orchestrator on the northbound API to create a dynamic user-experience that can engage with the customer. The orchestration layer just provides the workflow automation. Customers can interact with the application layer via a portal but, increasingly, they are looking to interface via an east-west API.
TT: LSO is believed to be a promising framework for dynamic services but is expected to take at least five more years to be widely adopted by networks. Do you see some segments in which LSO can work well to start before it spreads?
CS: LSO is not quite as black and white as that. We are big fans of the work that the MEF does here, and we are an active member in driving awareness and standardization of its components. We have MEF CE2.0 Carrier Ethernet, and we have implemented an LSO model for it -- it is happening now! What will take time is the API standards and vendor interoperability, which will accelerate its adoption.
Global telcos like us all have around 100 plus local off-net Ethernet access network partners around the world for last mile access. For LSO to provide end-to-end orchestration, we need East-West API standards. At Level 3 we would like to see our partners implement LSO too and participate with us in hackathons to help accelerate standards. The MEF has been great at moving this forward.
The three types of East-West API partner are:
- Customer's system directly talks to our Adaptive Network Control application
- Off-net/last mile access providers
- Cloud service providers so that we can dynamically network right into the customers' public cloud VPC domain as if it was a physical data center
The critical one to standardize is the off-net access east-west API. Some hackathons and proof-of-concept work have been done, but over the next couple of years, we can expect to see some standards based implementations with service providers (that are SDN-ready) to partner up.
TT: We have talked about programmable WAN using adapters and legacy equipment. Could you outline how we go from here to virtualized networks?
CS: The journey from here is to virtualized POPs. There is much work to get the orchestration and application layers working with a modern inventory system. Once that is done, and standard southbound APIs start to emerge, it will be a relatively straightforward process to move to virtualized infrastructure. SD-WAN is an incredibly compelling use-case that is driving this, and several service providers are starting with this.
— Kishore Jethanandani, Contributing Writer, Telco Transformation