Chapter 1. Understanding Red Hat Network Functions Virtualization (NFV)

Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) is a software-based solution that helps the Communication Service Providers (CSPs) to move beyond the traditional, proprietary hardware to achieve greater efficiency and agility while reducing the operational costs.

An NFV environment allows for IT and network convergence by providing a virtualized infrastructure using the standard virtualization technologies that run on standard hardware devices such as switches, routers, and storage to virtualize network functions (VNFs). The management and orchestration logic deploys and sustains these services. NFV also includes a Systems Administration, Automation and Life-Cycle Management thereby reducing the manual work necessary.

1.1. Advantages of NFV

The main advantages of implementing network functions virtualization (NFV) are as follows:

  • Accelerates the time-to-market by allowing you to to quickly deploy and scale new networking services to address changing demands.
  • Supports innovation by enabling service developers to self-manage their resources and prototype using the same platform that will be used in production.
  • Addresses customer demands in hours or minutes instead of weeks or days, without sacrificing security or performance.
  • Reduces capital expenditure because it uses commodity-off-the-shelf hardware instead of expensive tailor-made equipment.
  • Uses streamlined operations and automation that optimize day-to-day tasks to improve employee productivity and reduce operational costs.

1.2. Supported Configurations for NFV Deployments

You can use the Red Hat OpenStack Platform director toolkit to isolate specific network types, for example, external, project, internal API, and so on. You can deploy a network on a single network interface, or distributed over a multiple-host network interface. With Open vSwitch you can create bonds by assigning multiple interfaces to a single bridge. Configure network isolation in a Red Hat OpenStack Platform installation with template files. If you do not provide template files, the service networks deploy on the provisioning network.

There are two types of template configuration files:

  • network-environment.yaml

    This file contains network details, such as subnets and IP address ranges, for the overcloud nodes. This file also contains the different settings that override the default parameter values for various scenarios.

  • Host network templates, for example, compute.yaml and controller.yaml

    These templates define the network interface configuration for the overcloud nodes. The values of the network details are provided by the network-environment.yaml file.

These heat template files are located at /usr/share/openstack-tripleo-heat-templates/ on the undercloud node. For samples of these heat template files for NFV, see Sample DPDK SR-IOV YAML files.

The Hardware requirements and Software requirements sections provide more details on how to plan and configure the heat template files for NFV using the Red Hat OpenStack Platform director.

You can edit YAML files to configure NFV. For an introduction to the YAML file format, see YAML in a Nutshell.

Data Plane Development Kit (DPDK) and Single Root I/O Virtualization (SR-IOV)

Red Hat OpenStack Platform (RHOSP) supports NFV deployments with the inclusion of automated OVS-DPDK and SR-IOV configuration.


Red Hat does not support the use of OVS-DPDK for non-NFV workloads. If you need OVS-DPDK functionality for non-NFV workloads, contact your Technical Account Manager (TAM) or open a customer service request case to discuss a Support Exception and other options. To open a customer service request case, go to Create a case and choose Account > Customer Service Request.

Hyper-converged Infrastructure (HCI)
You can colocate the Compute sub-system with the Red Hat Ceph Storage nodes. This hyper-converged model delivers lower cost of entry, smaller initial deployment footprints, maximized capacity utilization, and more efficient management in NFV use cases. For more information about HCI, see Deploying a hyperconverged infrastructure.
Composable roles
You can use composable roles to create custom deployments. Composable roles allow you to add or remove services from each role. For more information about the Composable Roles, see Composable services and custom roles in Installing and managing Red Hat OpenStack Platform with director.
Open vSwitch (OVS) with LACP
As of OVS 2.9, LACP with OVS is fully supported. This is not recommended for Openstack control plane traffic, as OVS or Openstack Networking interruptions might interfere with management. For more information, see Open vSwitch (OVS) bonding options in Installing and managing Red Hat OpenStack Platform with director.
OVS Hardware offload
Red Hat OpenStack Platform supports, with limitations, the deployment of OVS hardware offload. For information about deploying OVS with hardware offload, see Configuring OVS hardware offload.
Open Virtual Network (OVN)

The following NFV OVN configurations are available in RHOSP 16.1.4:

1.3. NFV data plane connectivity

With the introduction of NFV, more networking vendors are starting to implement their traditional devices as VNFs. While the majority of networking vendors are considering virtual machines, some are also investigating a container-based approach as a design choice. An OpenStack-based solution should be rich and flexible due to two primary reasons:

  • Application readiness - Network vendors are currently in the process of transforming their devices into VNFs. Different VNFs in the market have different maturity levels; common barriers to this readiness include enabling RESTful interfaces in their APIs, evolving their data models to become stateless, and providing automated management operations. OpenStack should provide a common platform for all.
  • Broad use-cases - NFV includes a broad range of applications that serve different use-cases. For example, Virtual Customer Premise Equipment (vCPE) aims at providing a number of network functions such as routing, firewall, virtual private network (VPN), and network address translation (NAT) at customer premises. Virtual Evolved Packet Core (vEPC), is a cloud architecture that provides a cost-effective platform for the core components of Long-Term Evolution (LTE) network, allowing dynamic provisioning of gateways and mobile endpoints to sustain the increased volumes of data traffic from smartphones and other devices.

    These use cases are implemented using different network applications and protocols, and require different connectivity, isolation, and performance characteristics from the infrastructure. It is also common to separate between control plane interfaces and protocols and the actual forwarding plane. OpenStack must be flexible enough to offer different datapath connectivity options.

In principle, there are two common approaches for providing data plane connectivity to virtual machines:

  • Direct hardware access bypasses the linux kernel and provides secure direct memory access (DMA) to the physical NIC using technologies such as PCI Passthrough or single root I/O virtualization (SR-IOV) for both Virtual Function (VF) and Physical Function (PF) pass-through.
  • Using a virtual switch (vswitch), implemented as a software service of the hypervisor. Virtual machines are connected to the vSwitch using virtual interfaces (vNICs), and the vSwitch is capable of forwarding traffic between virtual machines, as well as between virtual machines and the physical network.

Some of the fast data path options are as follows:

  • Single Root I/O Virtualization (SR-IOV) is a standard that makes a single PCI hardware device appear as multiple virtual PCI devices. It works by introducing Physical Functions (PFs), which are the fully featured PCIe functions that represent the physical hardware ports, and Virtual Functions (VFs), which are lightweight functions that are assigned to the virtual machines. To the VM, the VF resembles a regular NIC that communicates directly with the hardware. NICs support multiple VFs.
  • Open vSwitch (OVS) is an open source software switch that is designed to be used as a virtual switch within a virtualized server environment. OVS supports the capabilities of a regular L2-L3 switch and also offers support to the SDN protocols such as OpenFlow to create user-defined overlay networks (for example, VXLAN). OVS uses Linux kernel networking to switch packets between virtual machines and across hosts using physical NIC. OVS now supports connection tracking (Conntrack) with built-in firewall capability to avoid the overhead of Linux bridges that use iptables/ebtables. Open vSwitch for Red Hat OpenStack Platform environments offers default OpenStack Networking (neutron) integration with OVS.
  • Data Plane Development Kit (DPDK) consists of a set of libraries and poll mode drivers (PMD) for fast packet processing. It is designed to run mostly in the user-space, enabling applications to perform their own packet processing directly from or to the NIC. DPDK reduces latency and allows more packets to be processed. DPDK Poll Mode Drivers (PMDs) run in busy loop, constantly scanning the NIC ports on host and vNIC ports in guest for arrival of packets.
  • DPDK accelerated Open vSwitch (OVS-DPDK) is Open vSwitch bundled with DPDK for a high performance user-space solution with Linux kernel bypass and direct memory access (DMA) to physical NICs. The idea is to replace the standard OVS kernel data path with a DPDK-based data path, creating a user-space vSwitch on the host that uses DPDK internally for its packet forwarding. The advantage of this architecture is that it is mostly transparent to users. The interfaces it exposes, such as OpenFlow, OVSDB, the command line, remain mostly the same.

1.4. ETSI NFV Architecture

The European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) is an independent standardization group that develops standards for information and communications technologies (ICT) in Europe.

Network functions virtualization (NFV) focuses on addressing problems involved in using proprietary hardware devices. With NFV, the necessity to install network-specific equipment is reduced, depending upon the use case requirements and economic benefits. The ETSI Industry Specification Group for Network Functions Virtualization (ETSI ISG NFV) sets the requirements, reference architecture, and the infrastructure specifications necessary to ensure virtualized functions are supported.

Red Hat is offering an open-source based cloud-optimized solution to help the Communication Service Providers (CSP) to achieve IT and network convergence. Red Hat adds NFV features such as single root I/O virtualization (SR-IOV) and Open vSwitch with Data Plane Development Kit (OVS-DPDK) to Red Hat OpenStack.

1.5. NFV ETSI architecture and components

In general, a network functions virtualization (NFV) platform has the following components:

Figure 1.1. NFV ETSI architecture and components

140 OpenStack NFV product guide updates 0221 reference arch OVN
  • Virtualized Network Functions (VNFs) - the software implementation of routers, firewalls, load balancers, broadband gateways, mobile packet processors, servicing nodes, signalling, location services, and other network functions.
  • NFV Infrastructure (NFVi) - the physical resources (compute, storage, network) and the virtualization layer that make up the infrastructure. The network includes the datapath for forwarding packets between virtual machines and across hosts. This allows you to install VNFs without being concerned about the details of the underlying hardware. NFVi forms the foundation of the NFV stack. NFVi supports multi-tenancy and is managed by the Virtual Infrastructure Manager (VIM). Enhanced Platform Awareness (EPA) improves the virtual machine packet forwarding performance (throughput, latency, jitter) by exposing low-level CPU and NIC acceleration components to the VNF.
  • NFV Management and Orchestration (MANO) - the management and orchestration layer focuses on all the service management tasks required throughout the life cycle of the VNF. The main goals of MANO is to allow service definition, automation, error-correlation, monitoring, and life-cycle management of the network functions offered by the operator to its customers, decoupled from the physical infrastructure. This decoupling requires additional layers of management, provided by the Virtual Network Function Manager (VNFM). VNFM manages the life cycle of the virtual machines and VNFs by either interacting directly with them or through the Element Management System (EMS) provided by the VNF vendor. The other important component defined by MANO is the Orchestrator, also known as NFVO. NFVO interfaces with various databases and systems including Operations/Business Support Systems (OSS/BSS) on the top and the VNFM on the bottom. If the NFVO wants to create a new service for a customer, it asks the VNFM to trigger the instantiation of a VNF, which may result in multiple virtual machines.
  • Operations and Business Support Systems (OSS/BSS) - provides the essential business function applications, for example, operations support and billing. The OSS/BSS needs to be adapted to NFV, integrating with both legacy systems and the new MANO components. The BSS systems set policies based on service subscriptions and manage reporting and billing.
  • Systems Administration, Automation and Life-Cycle Management - manages system administration, automation of the infrastructure components and life cycle of the NFVi platform.

1.6. Red Hat NFV components

Red Hat’s solution for NFV includes a range of products that can act as the different components of the NFV framework in the ETSI model. The following products from the Red Hat portfolio integrate into an NFV solution:

  • Red Hat OpenStack Platform - Supports IT and NFV workloads. The Enhanced Platform Awareness (EPA) features deliver deterministic performance improvements through CPU Pinning, Huge pages, Non-Uniform Memory Access (NUMA) affinity and network adaptors (NICs) that support SR-IOV and OVS-DPDK.
  • Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Red Hat Enterprise Linux Atomic Host - Create virtual machines and containers as VNFs.
  • Red Hat Ceph Storage - Provides the the unified elastic and high-performance storage layer for all the needs of the service provider workloads.
  • Red Hat JBoss Middleware and OpenShift Enterprise by Red Hat - Optionally provide the ability to modernize the OSS/BSS components.
  • Red Hat CloudForms - Provides a VNF manager and presents data from multiple sources, such as the VIM and the NFVi in a unified display.
  • Red Hat Satellite and Ansible by Red Hat - Optionally provide enhanced systems administration, automation and life-cycle management.

1.7. NFV installation summary

The Red Hat OpenStack Platform director installs and manages a complete OpenStack environment. The director is based on the upstream OpenStack TripleO project, which is an abbreviation for "OpenStack-On-OpenStack". This project takes advantage of the OpenStack components to install a fully operational OpenStack environment; this includes a minimal OpenStack node called the undercloud. The undercloud provisions and controls the overcloud (a series of bare metal systems used as the production OpenStack nodes). The director provides a simple method for installing a complete Red Hat OpenStack Platform environment that is both lean and robust.

For more information on installing the undercloud and overcloud, see Red Hat OpenStack Platform Installing and managing Red Hat OpenStack Platform with director.

To install the NFV features, complete the following additional steps:

  • Include SR-IOV and PCI Passthrough parameters in your network-environment.yaml file, update the post-install.yaml file for CPU tuning, modify the compute.yaml file, and run the script to deploy the overcloud.
  • Install the DPDK libraries and drivers for fast packets processing by polling data directly from the NICs. Include the DPDK parameters in your network-environment.yaml file, update the post-install.yaml files for CPU tuning, update the compute.yaml file to set the bridge with DPDK port, update the controller.yaml file to set the bridge and an interface with VLAN configured, and run the script to deploy the overcloud.