Lab-as-a-Service: An essential tool for NFV

Lab-as-a-Service: An essential tool for NFV

Technology News |
By Jean-Pierre Joosting

For operators, there no longer exists the question of whether to move towards virtualisation; it is now viewed as an essential step. Historically, it would take 18 months or so from the conception of a service to its final roll-out. NFV expedites this process and reduces the time-to-market for new services and applications, which in such a competitive time in the industry, is now more important than ever. And to deliver on this, network agility is paramount.

LaaS as a concept is born out of the data-centre, it is a systematic approach that automatically validates and verifies planning capacity for your network design. More than this, the same tools are used in post deployment for service assurance and real-time visibility. By creating and validating networks within the ETSI NFV framework, service providers can guarantee a future-proof multi-vendor network.

And it goes further; at the same cost as running a traditional fixed lab, with LaaS, network function vendors and service providers can share lab assets between facilities, helping operators realise significant OPEX savings. This enables engineers to create virtual test pods to ‘stress test’ network functions, reducing ownership costs by eliminating the need for multiple labs all using proprietary hardware.

For LaaS to be properly implemented, automation is key. Operators should be able to dynamically test their network functions, applications, and measure security performance dynamically. With successful automation, a multi-VIM (virtual infrastructure manager) solution can be offered which will help bridge the gap between IT, telco and data centre applications.

The move from physical to virtual should be a gradual and careful process. Every operator adopting NFV will have different requirements, whether this be due to timescale, budget or resources. The NFV journey is an unpredictable one, so agility and fluidity are essential. As such, operators should look to work with a partner which can offer a flexible set of network validation services with a high level of expertise. 

The excitement around NFV is tangible; however, it’s worth remembering that the transition from physical architecture to a virtualised model should be a gradual process. The LaaS model means infrastructure and networks can be tested and managed more easily, and upgrades can be facilitated at a lower price point in comparison with a traditional facility. Operators must embark on the NFV journey now, or risk being left behind. The LaaS model, when adopted with the help of an experienced partner, will ensure operators take the appropriate route on the journey, and capitalise on NFV investment.

 The author, Ultan Kelly is the Senior Product Line Director for TeraVM at Cobham Wireless.

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