June 3, 2015
With the migration to SDN and NFV, the levels of integration become ever more complex and the possible permutations of VFN to VFN dramatically increase. The answer to comprehensively testing your systems lies in Test Automation.
Network Functional Virtualization (NFV) and Software Defined Networks (SDN) are looking like the future in the evolution of the telecoms industry, bringing high levels of flexibility and control to what has been historically a very physical activity. However, as we look to realize the benefits, the levels of integration become ever more complex and the possible permutations of VFN to VFN dramatically increase. The question of testing raises its head in a manner which requires an approach far different to the physical checks and manual testing techniques that are currently employed. However, we do have the option of automation in the Testing Method Kit bag.
Test Automation offers the means of performing the volume of test iterations required, but the majority of tools available on the market are based on interacting with graphical user interfaces, which is not necessarily the best solution for what is a far more engineering focused requirement. At QualiTest we see NFV as an essential element that testing functions have to be able to cater for in the future. The focus needs to be on exponential increase in integration permutations, scalability and performance. In order to cover the scalability and integration permutation issues, QualiTest have partnered with QualiSystems, providers of the CloudShell automation and orchestration tool. The benefits of the solution is that it automates via the Command Line Interface (CLI) and Application Programming Interface (API). This means that the automation is interacting with coded instruction and lends itself to far easier control of the methods of deployment and configuration, previously manual inputs. Additionally, because the automation is not linked to a Graphical User Interface (GUI) we are not faced with the need to automate sequentially. So imagine a scenario where the configuration of multiple routers all needs to be modified, this can be activated as a parallel activity with all being changed simultaneously.
There are some known pitfalls to be aware of. Firstly, automation is not a one off solution: it requires continued investment to ensure it is maintained up to date and valid. Secondly the addition of new elements or Virtual Network Functions (VNFs) needs to be monitored and regression packs cater for the new permutations of VNFs. Thirdly manual testing will not be removed in totality and the existence of Physical Network Functions (PNFs) will not go away. Also beware the of the ‘pesticide paradox’, the subject of a future article.
In early stages of implementing an NFV solution, the likelihood is that physical elements will remain and it will be a gradual shift from physical to virtual. It will be a slow uphill journey which will gather momentum and become a game changer, effectively reaching the top of the hill and then gaining a momentum from that point. The speed at which you gain the top of the hill will be governed by implementation of successful proof of concepts, working with change agents such as QualiSystems and QualiTest to demonstrate the speed at which success can be achieved. If you would like to know more about automation for NFV or automation in general, please contact QualiTest.