OPNFV Summit Preview: Q&A with ZTE


ZTE’s Zhang Fan, Chief Architect of Packet Core, will deliver a keynote address at the upcoming OPNFV Summit focused on “NFV Practice for vEPC Commercial Network.” Read  below for a preview of what you can expect from ZTE onsite at OPNFV Summit this year. OPNFV Summit is taking place June 12-15 in Beijing. More details, including onsite agenda and how to register, are available here: http://events.linuxfoundation.org/events/opnfv-summit

Tell us about your involvement in OPNFV — and open source networking in general. How has this evolved over time?

ZTE’s open source road began in 2014. Now, more than 200 professional developers from ZTE are working with partners in 13 open source communities. Recent Stackalytics.com data shows ZTE is among the top contributors within the OPNFV, OpenStack, and kubernetes communities. ZTE looks forward to continued work with SDN/NFV ecosystem partners to promote maturity of open source and industrial software development.

More specifically, ZTE has released enhanced network solutions, including an SDN controller, SDN switches, intelligent NICs and data plane acceleration. ZTE ZENIC SDN Controller, ZTE DVS (OVS based) and mobile core network are using these technologies via open source.

ZTE’s involvement in open source is currently employed within several commercial products and projects like ZX-TECS based on Openstack and ZX-vManager based on OPEN-O.

Where do you see your role — and that of OPNFV — in terms of the broader end-to-end open networking stack? 

OPNFV plays a key role in the integration of IT technologies and standards organizations by centralizing the ecosystem via a dedicated reference platform, which speeds up NFV development and maturity. Since OPNFV representatives are comprised of CT vendors, operators, and IT vendors, among others; OPNFV reflects common requirements needed across the NFV ecosystem. For example, OPNFV’s strong collaboration with other upstream communities including OpenStack, OpenDaylight, DPDK, FD.io, etc. illustrate the project’s ability to serve as a connection across the end-to-end open networking stack. 

OPNFV is the only open source community targeting  NFV solutions, including infrastructure, VIM and MANO. ZTE is pleased to be joining the OPNFV community along the journey to accelerate open source NFV.

What new technology or trend in the networking space are you most curious about and why?

As NFV/SDN technologies have been deployed by operators and will continue to enable 5G and IoT applications, network infrastructure must be optimized to adjust to a centralized management for controlling the plane, high throughput traffic and ultra-low latency for the data plane. Cloud deployment needs to be extended from the core to the edge. The focus of networking is shifting from functions to efficiency and performance.

On the one hand, SDN is playing a critical role in coordinating all open source components to optimize the network architecture and improve network efficiency. SDN makes it possible to manage the entire network through intelligent orchestration and management systems in a 5G core network. So it is quite interesting to investigate how best to provide continuous delivery (CD) of services based on dynamic network functions and automated deployment mechanisms in future networks.

On the other hand, the performance must be improved to meet the requirements of 5G and AR/VR, etc. Currently, we already focus on the software level to identify mechanisms to enhance the processing as fast as possible. By introducing upstream projects like FD.io, we can achieve more data plane acceleration. On top of that, hardware acceleration is also an up-and-coming technical trend. We need to take into consideration that some complex computing or algorithm processing can be offloaded to intelligent cards, which will release a lot of hardware core resources of the data plane being used.

In what ways has the industry progressed towards broader adoption of NFV? What are the hurdles?

For starters, the proposed NFV architecture or solution must provide a cost-effective way to help operators build their networks. There are many open source communities; we need to integrate them together to make networking simpler and more agile. Currently, a lot of operators have started transforming their network, so it is the right time to introduce NFV to replace traditional network components.

Secondly, the industry should adopt more and more vendors and apps to build an open ecosystem instead of the traditional “chimney style.” We should consider how to provide a common platform to make all components integrate more closely. For example, ZTE ElasticNet integrates SDN and NFV technology in order to break the isolation between components. This gives customers a better experience in terms of management, service and new business models.

Additionally, the industry needs to target upcoming new networks and new services. The architecture must be adapted to future (5~10 years’) requirements. With 5G and IoT booming, cloud native- based technology is a good way to broaden NFV.

One of the major hurdles towards broader adoption of NFV is closed architecture and deployment methods. Some industry projects are not authentic NFV networks, but just simple virtualization within one vendor. We need to break vendor lock by leveraging open cloud networks, where customers can select  products based on different layers and needs;  otherwise, big barriers continue to block large-scale NFV application growth.

Can you give us a preview of what you’ll be talking about onstage at OPNFV Summit in Beijing?

We’re looking forward to participating in this year’s OPNFV Summit! In addition to introducing commercial NFV mobile network practices beneficial to open source community development during the main keynotes, ZTE will be onsite for the Design Summit beginning Monday, June 12. We are excited to collaborate with the community, particularly regarding plans for the next OPNFV release, Euphrates.