Network functions virtualisation (NFV) has attracted a lot of attention in recent years as a potential solution for reducing costs and providing scalable network services. Emerging trends in telecommunication networks, such as Fog Computing and Internet of Things (IoT), portend new types of services that require the geographical distribution of small-scale data centers (SSDCs) that will provide virtualised network functions (VNFs) at the edge of current networks. In these new scenarios, the SSDCs have to reduce costs while still being able to efficiently manage its computing and network infrastructure to meet demanding bandwidth and latency requirements of highly dynamic service requests.
Traditional data center infrastructures have been designed to serve a scenario with a much larger number of servers and their network infrastructure is not though for complex service chaining interconnections between VNF elements. Moreover, their network reconfiguration mechanisms are limited, and packet routing/forwarding is not optimized. In this scenario, it is hard to build a cohesive solution between the underlying network topology and VNF orchestration decisions.
To tackle these issues, we investigate the integration of NFV and software-defined networking (SDN) in SSDCs and take the virtualisation of network functions to a next level by virtualising not only middleboxes, but also the network elements that interconnect servers. To this end, we propose VirtPhy, a fully programmable NFV infrastructure based on a server-centric data center architecture that aims to provide mechanisms for efficient NFV in SSDCs, considering scenarios of up to 512 commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) servers.
An 8-node prototype was built and tested to demonstrate the platform key enabling mechanisms, which are programmed to jointly make the most of the available physical infrastructure.
The results of this work were presented in detail in the conference paper: C. Dominicini, G. Vassoler, M. R. N. Ribeiro, M. Martinello, “VirtPhy: A Fully Programmable Infrastructure for Efficient NFV in Small Data Centers” IEEE Conference on Network Function Virtualization and Software Defined Networks (NFV-SDN), November 2016.
Currently, we are extending the presented prototype to include the following features: 1) Packet forwarding acceleration features with Intel DPDK and ONP platforms. 2) Service Function Chaining; 3) Support for other server centric topologies and forwarding mechanisms.