Gluware: The Missing Piece in the Enterprise Adoption of Network Functions Virtualization (NFV)

As VMWorld 2016 wraps up this week, it’s an interesting time to look at the move toward virtualization and, more specifically toward network functions virtualization (NFV). NFV has largely been driven by the carriers through the efforts of the ETSI ISG for NFV. The motivation for the carrier community is to drive network costs down by leveraging commercial off the shelf x86 compute platforms and running network functions (firewall, load balancer, router, EPC,..Etc.) in software. Running network functions as virtual appliances also provides many potential operational benefits including dynamic control of resources allocated to a function and agility in change management to align with business needs. Large carriers are all moving toward leveraging NFV as part of their infrastructure and managed service offerings. Enterprise IT organizations are also following this trend, and a recent survey of 466 IT professionals conducted by Quinstreet Enterprise, publisher of eWeek and CIO Insight, finds that not only do 44 percent report they are evaluating NFV software but 16 percent say they are already using it.

NFV has three primary components:
NFV Infrastructure (NFV-I) made up of the compute, storage and virtualization layer
Virtual Network Functions (VNFs) are the virtual appliances running with identical functionality to physical routers, firewalls, load balancers, and other appliances
Management and Orchestration (MANO), which consists of the NFV orchestrator, VNF manager and Virtualization Infrastructure Manager (VIM)

While each of these three components continues to mature, there are two significant gaps affecting enterprises ability to migrate to NFV. First is the “brownfield” network, which is the existing network where rip-and-replace is not always an option. Enterprises need a gradual migration path to NFV where physical and virtual network functions will co-exist for the foreseeable future. Since NFV is primarily implemented on compute, the data center is the low-hanging-fruit to be virtualized. The second hurdle to overcome is co-existence and concurrent management of the physical and virtual network. While IT teams are handling the existing workload, it is often not practical to add training to learn new platforms. The NFV architecture does not provide a unified mechanism to address what’s really needed configuration management, from users entering the data, data validation, storage and versioning control. As a result, many enterprises and service providers are struggling with NETCONF/YANG, and nothing is really available for the enterprise…until Glue.

Gluware is emerging as the answer to help enterprises migrate to NFV. It is already helping to simplify network complexity and provide multi-vendor lifecycle management for data center, WAN and LAN networks. As enterprise look to adopt virtualized network functions Gluware is able to unify configuration management of both virtual and physical devices under a single platform.

Gluware leverages software-defined, model-driven orchestration which can onboard configuration management for any platform which has a CLI or REST interface. Recently, Glue was even extended to support the SOAP interface standard as well. This flexibility allows customers to model exactly what they need to expose in IT Operations and provide configuration management through the unified Gluware Control platform.

Gluware is a proven platform for configuration management of both physical and virtual network functions. It also has the ability to integrate with the VIM layer (typically VMware or OpenStack) and leverage the features of the enterprises preferred virtualization management layer through RESTful API integration. Through REST calls Glue can initiate the VM manager to spin-up, modify, re-start, re-host or remove the virtual machine (VM) needed for each network function. Moving forward, as the MANO specification and components mature, Gluware will be able to integrate via APIs giving enterprise IT a migration path to NFV now while carriers work to define future standards.

A great example is a recent customer opportunity who first engaged with Glue for the life-cycle management of existing firewalls and load balancers in their data center. Within days Glue had a Proof-of-Concept (POC) up and running providing simplified, unified configuration management across multiple vendors. Now, this customer is considering moving to virtualized functions from their existing vendors and also considering a new vendor for a virtual firewall. Glue is able to seamlessly manage the configuration management on the virtual network functions provided by the existing vendor and within days can onboard the new virtual load balancer. The next step in that POC is to integrate with the virtualization layer, in this case VMware through RESTful API.

As enterprise IT looks to reduce cost and move to VNFs the cost and complexity of the migration is usually the pain point. Gluware provides a faster, easier way to adopt NFV into the existing network minimizing downtime and disruption.

Glue Networks has completed POCs with many virtual functions including A10 Thunder Virtual, Cisco CSR 1000V, Fortinet FortiGate NGFW, Riverbed SteelHead(Virtual Edition), Palo Alto VM-Series and more, all vendor supported on VMware.