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Software Defined Networks and Network Function Virtualization Testbed within FIRE+

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - SoftFIRE (Software Defined Networks and Network Function Virtualization Testbed within FIRE+)

Reporting period: 2017-02-01 to 2018-04-30

The telecommunications world is requiring more flexibility and a better exploitation of resources as well as a greater integration with computing capabilities (softwarization). The Software Defined Networks and Network Function Virtualization technologies are prominent in this area. They are means to change the way networks are controlled and managed and they are enabling technologies for 5G.
The European Industry needs to exploit these technologies by means of an open and programmable federated testbed. SoftFIRE has covered this research and development space providing NFV/SDN and security functions for a 5G context.
Softwarization of networks will have impact on many different application domains and hence on the entire Society. In particular 5G networks are promising to change the network paradigm and they aim at introducing and offering flexible and programmable communications functions that are instrumental to build new services in several applications domains. Guaranteeing openness, programmability and security as well as allowing innovative organizations to experiment new ideas are important factors that can help in defining how the 5G infrastructure should be organized and changed. This is why it is important to enable and support several NFV/SDN/5G experimentations on a federated infrastructure that is paving the way towards Software Networks.
The SoftFIRE testbed offers three key enabling capabilities: interoperability, programmability, and security. The SoftFIRE project’s main objective is to demonstrate and assess the level of maturity of the technologies (NFV/SDN and 5G solutions) and to show how they can be used in an open infrastructure by creating, nurturing and supporting an ecosystem of third parties.
The Interoperability and federation goal guarantees that several testbeds designed with different scopes and using different technologies can be federated. Programmability implies that many organizations can program and govern the platform in order to develop advanced applications. Security means that the platform offers a stable, robust and secure environment.
During its lifetime, the SoftFIRE project has supported three “waves” of experimentations during which the platform has been extensively used by many organizations that developed services, applications or specific functions to extend its capabilities. The main objectives of second year of the project were:
- To improve and consolidate the Interworking features of the platform introducing new enhanced solutions and capabilities.
- To introduce new middleware and related programmable functions, especially in the realms of SDN and security;
- To execute a large set of experimentations to prove the merits of the federated testbed, consolidate it and evaluate it.
These goals have led the second-year activities towards these major results:
• functional extension and consolidation of a federated testbed able to support the needs of a large ecosystem of experimenters
• to create a middleware platform able to better support the needs of NFV/SDN users and to offer it to experimenters in the second, and third open call as well as to the Final Challenge
• preparation and execution of the second and third open call, the Final Challenge, and two Hackathons and several Open Days.
During year 2, SoftFIRE has improved the Federated Testbed that could better support third parties’ experiments over a renewed and richer federated infrastructure. This required improving the openVPN connectivity, and the existing individual testbeds. A great effort has been put on the introduction of security and SDN programmable functionalities offered to Experimenters as services. On top of this improved infrastructure, the project has developed, integrated, and tested a TOSCA based middleware layer usable for supporting the experimentation lifecycle by means of extended virtualization, programmability and security features. New tools to better control the development and testing as well as monitoring of the platform have been introduced.
Software focused also on the execution of the second, and third Open Calls. 25 experiments have been selected and executed in these Open Calls. In addition, up to 14 challengers have accessed the Federated Testbed for the Final Challenge. It was concluded in March 15th with 8 final participants. Two Hackathons have been successfully executed and other promotional/education activities have been performed (such as Open Days and tutorials/presentations of the platform). The SoftFIRE project has been able to further extend its community. The creation of the ecosystem has been possible thanks to a very extensive set of dissemination and exploitation actions that have had an international impact and exposure
During its lifetime, the SoftFIRE project has covered the needs of having a programmable Federated Testbed focused on NFV/SDN capabilities in the context of evolution towards 5G. The SoftFIRE approach has been very effective: it has created the technological conditions for allowing, proving and testing different approaches in this field. It has made available a large infrastructure, with relevant and valuable programmable network and security functions and an overall orchestration capability. It allowed experimenters to focus on technical issues and alternatives that are deemed most important or with higher priority for the further evolution of the NFV/SDN technologies. This is a great progress with respect to the state of art because the platform is not intended to prove a single technology within the realm of NFV/SDN/5G but it is offering the possibility to really exploit programmability of reusable and effective functions and APIs.
The quality of the Federated Testbed has been proved by over 35 successful experimentations. This community has proved to be quite innovative in terms of innovation and introduction of new NFV/SDN/5G solutions. The availability of an open and widely available platform has allowed them to challenge the functionalities as well as to prove their hypothesis of work and evolution.
This has positioned SoftFIRE as a leading project in the real adoption and consolidation of the NFV/SDN technologies. In fact, SoftFIRE can be considered a reference implementation of an open (TOSCA based) NFV/SDN federated testbed.
The SoftFIRE project has evaluated a market offering of the platform. A questionnaire and direct interactions with experimenters that were close to industrialization of solutions were used to identify real needs. The analysis considered analogue initiatives attempted for the commercial exploitation of testbeds. The results are not encouraging because of these factors: the 5G market is still in its infancy; there are many opportunities to get funded for using specific testbeds; the Vendors are trying to create ecosystems of organizations and solutions around their own specific NFV/SDN platforms. These facts limit the possibility to go to market. However, the SoftFIRE consortium will maintain the Federated Testbed operational up to the end of 2018 and it will proactively seek for organizations interested in using it for their own specific goals.