Another IP multivendor management demonstration using a model-driven approach
Big achievement alert: Nokia successfully passed the recent EANTC multivendor interoperability tests for IP network configuration management and performance monitoring.
Conducted in November 2020 and April 2021, the tests focused on the NETCONF protocol and transport network-specific YANG models.
During the tests, the Nokia Network Services Platform (NSP) demonstrated its ability to quickly discover and configure L2 and L3 VPN services on networks made up of equipment from various suppliers (Cisco, Huawei, Ciena, IP Infusion), both directly as a controller and indirectly as an orchestrator through other controllers.
Details on the tests can be found in this EANTC white paper.
Multivendor network automation
Today, most IP networks use products from multiple suppliers. Multivendor network automation is essential for supporting efficient network operation and enabling agile service creation. Operators need the ability to abstract proprietary device specifics or models so they can automate the provisioning and assurance of network services that use equipment from multiple suppliers.
This requires openness and fewer proprietary implementations.
Test events such as those run by the EANTC help to accelerate multivendor interoperability and standards compliance of protocols and standard model implementations.
From proprietary solutions…
A few years back, most vendor-specific management systems had hard-coded object models that were closely aligned with network element features and architecture. Each new network element release therefore required a new management software release to support the added features. This led to a roadmap co-dependency that has become increasingly unmanageable as the number of network elements and feature configurations has increased.
… to the model-driven approach
Model-driven architectures using a common modeling language such as YANG were introduced in management software products to address this issue and decouple network element and management software release cycles. The model-driven approach simplifies the integration into the management software of new network elements because it abstracts service-specific configurations from vendor-specific implementation. This allows operators to use vendor-independent software to control and monitor network elements from multiple suppliers.
With a model-driven approach, operators can add new network elements by integrating the corresponding resource models, without modifying the management software. In this way, the network elements become hot pluggable. They can then be configured using programmatic interfaces such as NETCONF, gRPC or a model-driven command line interface (MD-CLI).
A complex reality
Open interfaces are critical for multivendor support and for enabling automated onboarding of network functions without protocol mediation. The IETF and OpenConfig have worked to complement NETCONF by creating a range of standardized interfaces based on YANG models.
The purpose of the EANTC events was to test these interfaces. The results were mixed.
The reality is that not all network elements support the standards. Suppliers and operators still require proprietary extensions and additional models to fully manage all their product capabilities while allowing for innovation and differentiation.
And what about all those legacy devices that do not support the most recent standards? Should operators just replace them and throw away years of investment?
The need for flexible mediation
To support full interoperability and pass the EANTC tests, NSP had to adapt to the proprietary models of some network elements. Having the flexibility to support a mix of standard and proprietary interfaces is essential in a multivendor network. Management software systems need it to support recent network elements that deviate from standards, and to on-board legacy equipment that has been in the network for several years.
The NSP provides this flexibility thanks to the programmable nature of its mediation layer. This programmability allows operators to quickly build pluggable adaptors for any network element. NETCONF and gRPC protocols, in combination with YANG models, enable the integration of network elements in a very short time – less than a week for the devices used in the EANTC tests, even though NSP had never interacted with these devices before.
Nokia NSP model-driven management principles for multivendor support
Multivendor management in action
To see how this works in a real operator scenario, check out this case study from a leading communication service provider in Brazil, which uses NSP to deliver IP services over 650 provider edge (PE) routers from four different vendors.