Enabling Dynamic and Secure Edge Access to Public Clouds and Corporate Data with Lean NFV: Highlights from MEF 3.0 PoC Showcase 2021

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Lean NFV simplifies the introduction of virtualized network services by presenting VNFs and CNFs with a single API to a Key Value Store as a universal point of integration. This PoC applies Lean NFV to not only secure access for remote employees to corporate data centers, public clouds, and the Internet but also the dynamic invocation of virtualized network functions for SD-WAN and SASE, at the provider edge and customer edge.

MEF 3.0 PoC (106) demonstrates the ease of such access when Lean NFV powers the dynamic invocation of the required network functions. By showing multiple SD-WAN solutions and multiple SASE solutions, Lean NFV illustrates the flexibility service providers gain from having multiple technology options and a library of functions for service chaining.

The Service

Over the last five years or so, corporations have employed SD-WAN to lower the cost and increase the flexibility of access for not only remote branches but also the homes of remote employees, especially during the pandemic. 

Over the last two years, SASE (Secure Access Service Edge) emerged as a concept and as commercialized technologies and service offerings. New applications requiring bounded latency and localized security heighten the growth of the Edge as the venue for distributing cloud functions and corporate data. The combination of these trends can be seen in the MEF 3.0 PoC (106) service: providing secure remote access for employees to multiple locations of corporate data, including public clouds. 

SASE and SD-WAN

To effectively manage such remote access, service providers offer SD-WAN as a managed service, and in MEF 3.0 PoC (106), all that is required remotely is a simple, low-cost Universal CPE (uCPE) in which the SD-WAN function appears as a virtualized network function, paired with cloud-based orchestration. Similarly, the uCPE contains far-edge SASE functions intended to protect the employee communication, coupled with cloud-based management and orchestration, and effected with SASE gateways.

Lean NFV

Lean NFV is an open architecture designed to manage a multi-vendor ecosystem for NFV. To achieve better integration among the three basic NFV components—NFV manager (NFV MANO), Virtualized Infrastructure Manager (VIM), and Virtualized Network Functions (VNFs)—Lean NFV introduces a fourth component: a Key-Value Store (KVS) wrapped by a Lean NFV REST Services (LRS) API that serves as the universal point of coordination for the NFs and micro-controllers, rather than on pairwise APIs between components that were often tied to their particular implementation. By decoupling the sender from the receiver of data, the LRS API provides a clean, single interface with which to exchange information, greatly easing integration.

The key components of the Lean NFV architecture include:

  • The Key-Value Store (KVS), the main point of integration in the system; widely available.
  • The Lean NFV REST Server (LRS), a lightweight server that assures authentication, authorization, and accounting (AAA).
  • A virtual switch for real-time gathering of key performance metrics; widely available.
  • The management micro-controllers, modular instances of NFVO/VNFM/VIM functionality.
  • The VNFs, CNFs, and Element Management Systems (EMS), from any source.

The figure shows that the NFs and the micro-controllers need to maintain only a single control-plane API, to the LRS, not one customized to every other NF or micro-controller. New NF authors can write their function once and have it deployed widely. NF procurers will have a much wider choice of NFs. Note that Lean NFV applies equally to both VNFs and CNFs.

In MEF 3.0 PoC (106), the VNFs reside at the edges, hosted on the Nefeli ExP Edge platform and are controlled by the Nefeli Weaver—an orchestrator, located in the operator’s data center along with the KVS and LRS. The Nefeli ExP Edge platform also provides advanced telemetry data on the NFs, through the virtual switch, and can leverage the telemetry data to automate functionals and scale up or out. Through Nefeli Weaver, you can manage your entire NF deployment, across multiple tenants and locales in one central location, and also easily establish and modify service chains in a declarative manner without worrying about exactly which hardware resources are needed.

NFs represent the SD-WAN functions of connectivity and service choice, and the SASE functions for CASB, DLP, firewalls, and access control. Lean NFV epitomizes the ease with which an operator can deploy independently written VNFs and CNFs and dynamically chain them to offer customized services to its enterprise customers. Before Lean NFV, this would have been impractical, unaffordable, and difficult to deploy, and there are too few independently written NFs. Lean NFV abstracts the NFs (and micro-controllers) from how they are built, fostering universal control and management algorithms. 

For MEF 3.0 PoC (106), Nefeli Networks built thin wrappers around the existing VNFs to adapt them to the LRS API; in the future we expect VNF and CNF authors to write their NFs natively to the API that MEF is standardizing.

Learn More 

MEF 3.0 PoC (106) Remote Employee Access using SASE Service and Lean NFV will be presented during the MEF 3.0 PoC Showcase on 17 February  2021. Read more about MEF 3.0 PoC (106) > 

MEF 3.0 PoC (106) is a collaborative project developed by four companies: Amartus, Nefeli Networks, (Telecom Italia) Sparkle, and Versa Networks.

Related Posts

By Amartus: Secured Work from Anywhere using SASE Service and Lean NFV: Highlights from MEF 3.0 PoC Showcase 2021 

By Sparkle:The Enterprise’s Corporate Network SASE-fication: Highlights from MEF 3.0 PoC Showcase 2021

Stay tuned for more information and future posts; each of the participating companies will be delivering a separate blog post related to their part of the solution.

About Nefeli Networks

Nefeli Networks is the leading pioneer of Lean NFV, which was invented jointly by the company’s chairman and CTO. Enterprises, system integrators, and service providers are finding applications of Lean NFV wherever NFV has shown promise, even if that promise has not been fulfilled, including the core, provider edge, and customer edge. Now driving the worldwide standardization in MEF, Nefeli Networks is bringing the dynamicity, flexibility, and competitive necessity of new services to service providers, their customers, and the industry at large. For more information, please visit www.nefeli.io.

About MEF’s Proof of Concept Program & Showcase

The MEF 3.0 Proof of Concept program effectively fosters innovation, seeds new MEF standards and projects, and accelerates our existing work within the ICT industry by providing our members—including service providers, technology suppliers, and other stakeholders within the ICT industry—the opportunity to collaborate on MEF 3.0-based use cases throughout the year.

Initiated by MEF members and facilitated by MEF staff, each MEF 3.0 PoC receives a unique, identifying number that remains unchanged as its title and messaging evolves over the life of the project.

PoC work is highlighted in public showcases and award presentations that explore individual Proofs of Concept.

To learn more about the MEF 3.0 PoC Program and the enabling technologies, visit MEF.net.

Dan Pitt
Advisor | Nefeli Networks
www.nefeli.io

Dan Pitt has been a leading voice of the open networking movement since its inception. He served as executive director of ONF from 2011-2016 and since 2017 has been senior vice president of MEF (in a retired capacity since 2020 and running the Lean NFV project), applying SDN, NFV, Cloud, Disaggregation, and Open Source to the offering of new, dynamic services across a global system of automated networks. He also advises private and public companies to commercialize new ideas in broad areas of IT and currently serves as a strategic advisor to Nefeli Networks.

Prior to ONF, Dan served as Dean of Engineering at Santa Clara University, held executive management roles at Nortel Networks and Bay Networks, developed and managed networking technology at HP Laboratories Palo Alto and IBM Research Zurich, and taught computer science and electrical engineering at Duke and UNC. He holds a B.S. from Duke and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Illinois and is a Fellow of the IEEE. He lives in Palo Alto with his wife and son.

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