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

September 07, 2017 //By Ultan Kelly, Cobham Wireless
Lab-as-a-Service: An essential tool for NFV
Network function virtualisation (NFV) is widely considered to be the biggest game changer in the telecoms industry. Service providers are embracing NFV to enable speed and agility, and roll out new communications services. However, before adopting NFV it is important that operators have a methodical plan in place. An operator’s physical network infrastructure needs to be maintained throughout the NFV journey, and integrated with rather than replaced by the virtual. It is also essential that operators work with a network validation partner which can offer Lab as a Service (LaaS).

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.

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