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Introduction to Cloud Native Network Functions
A cloud-native network function (CNF) is a service that executes network functions in software rather than dedicated hardware. Because of the huge and low-cost central processing unit and memory resources available in today's server platforms, network operations can be performed using software.
Cloud-Native technology is the most effective technology in continuously building and operating the world's largest cloud applications. Being cloud-native is the approach to building and running applications that take advantage of the cloud computing model. Cloud-native Applications are a set of small, independent, and loosely coupled services. These are the applications built using the cloud computing model to improve quality and increase speed and flexibility while reducing deployment risk. It is an approach that focuses on how the applications are built, deployed, and managed. No wonder why the introduction of Cloud-Native Network Traffic Management in Cloud-Native Applications was the need of the hour!
If an app is termed as "cloud-native," it clearly specifies that it is designed to supply an automatic, uniform development and management experience across different clouds, be it private, public, or hybrid. A cloud-native application uses a set of tools that simplify and manage the orchestration of application services. These services, individually, are deployed as containers and connected through APIs. The containers are then orchestrated by a container scheduler responsible for managing where and when a container should be provisioned into an application.
A cloud-native application is a programme that is built specifically for a cloud computing architecture. know more about Cloud native applications.
Cloud-Native ArchitectureOrganizations adopt the cloud computing model to extend the scalability and availability of apps. These benefits are achieved through the on-demand provisioning of resources and automation of the application life cycle from development to production. But to completely utilize these benefits, a new sort of development is required. Cloud-native application development fulfills this requirement. It is an approach to build and update apps quickly while continuously improving the quality and reducing the risk. More specifically, it’s an approach to create and run responsive, scalable, and fault-tolerant apps anywhere—be it public, private, or hybrid clouds. <image> Cloud-native applications are designed to be portable to different deployment environments: public, private, or hybrid cloud. DevOps and CI/CD are used to automate building, testing, and deploying services into the production network. Let's discuss the development processes below:
Microservices ArchitectureMicroservices architecture structures an application to collect independent and loosely coupled services to implement business capabilities. Deploy, scale, and upgrade each microservice in individual containers, independent of other application services. It enables continuous delivery and continuous deployment of large and complex applications.
Enabling ContainersContainers are a form of virtualization. An OS instance is divided into multiple isolated containers, having individual writable filesystems and resource quotas. So containers actually use an Operating System-level of virtualization. They can be deployed on bare metal as well as virtual machines. Each microservice is generally deployed in a separate container; however, multiple microservices can also be deployed per container as per the application and performance requirements.
Continuous Delivery OfferingsThe adoption of continuous delivery has revolutionized the speed of market. It makes releases easy and reliable, enabling organizations to deliver frequently and at a lesser risk factor. It is all about making an individual application modification ready for release without even waiting to bundle it up with other release changes. The use of continuous delivery provides immediate feedback from end-users to developers.
Empowering DevOps Best PracticesDevOps is a technology that combines development and operations into a single IT value stream by utilizing agile and lean software development techniques. It enables organizations to apply continuous integration and continuous delivery services to build, test, and deploy software more rapidly and iteratively. Therefore, we can say that Cloud-native technologies provide the basic building blocks to build applications that achieve the goal of reducing OpEx by simplifying and automating the network operations, allowing the provisioning of faster services to market and deploying across a broad range of cloud environments.
What are Cloud Native Networks?Consider Cloud-Native Networks as a revolution in network design and architecture. Like the development of cloud-native applications, cloud-native networks also run their services like security inspections, route calculation, and policy enforcement on a platform that takes full advantage of cloud attributes. There are no proprietary appliances used, which changes the technical and operational characteristics of enterprise networks. The platform used for such networks has a multitenant design, operates on off-the-shelf servers, and can provide a breakthrough performance that was earlier only possible with customized hardware usage.
Cloud Native Networks: The Common MythsThe cloud-native network is not simply called the porting of software or hosting an appliance over the cloud. It is a network that is built with the cloud service from scratch. Cloud-native networks do not follow the stale process of traditional network service providers. Instead, they avoid the cost overhead and greatly impact enterprise-wide, which can be understood better by considering the five attributes below.
Attributes of Cloud Native Network ServicesThe attributes explained below are important factors that must be satisfied if a provider’s software and network platform are to be considered cloud-native:
1. ScalabilityScalability is one of the most important characteristics of cloud-native networks, just like cloud-native applications. They have no scaling limitations. The software stack is designed to take advantage of additional computing, memory, networking resources, and storage. New traffic loads or requirements can be easily accommodated to the network platform.
2. EfficiencyEfficiency is another attribute that is highly promoted by cloud-native network services. The design of cloud-native networks provides high network quality and performance at low costs. Third-party license fees, as well as nominal support costs, are eliminated because of platform ownership. Costs incurred on the construction and maintenance of physical transmission networks are eliminated using a smart software overlay that constantly monitors the underlying network providers and selects the most optimum one for every packet being transmitted. As a result, we are provided with a carrier-grade network at an unmatched cost and performance.
3. MultitenancyMultitenancy refers to the abstraction of the underlying infrastructure to provide a private network experience to every customer. It is the network provider who is responsible for maintaining and scaling the network infrastructure. Similar to any other cloud storage and computing, cloud-native networks also do not have any idle appliances. Multitenancy allows the maximization of the underlying network infrastructure.
4. VelocityThis attribute refers to the rapid innovation and instant availability of new features and capabilities. All the customers are instantly benefitted from the most recent feature set. Using their software platforms, cloud-native network providers can easily and rapidly expand their networks to new regions. Even troubleshooting in cloud-native networks takes very little time as the support and platform development teams operate together.
5. UbiquityCloud-native networks are accessible using mobile clients, physical and virtual appliances, and third-party IPsec compatible edges. Ubiquity refers to the connection of one network to any resource from anywhere. It states that the enterprise network should be available everywhere and accessible from any resource, be it physical, cloud, or mobile.
Introduction to Cloud Native Network FunctionsRouters, firewalls, and campus switches -- these physical devices are common examples of Network Functions (NF) used for processing the packets that support a network or application service. The performance, features, operational control, and scale differ from one device to the other. A network is formed when a topology consists of similar interconnected NFs. And when such networks are interconnected to form larger networks, they are characterized by a broad range of services, applications, and heterogeneous activities. This kind of network model, which uses physical network infrastructure, can be seen anywhere, all the way from the Internet to even residential wifi networks.
For operators, it is the ability to virtualize network functions, utilizing new architectures (NFV, SDN) built into 5G systems that will be deployed as part of the overall network. Source: ForbesA Virtual Machine (VM) can be called the software version of a physical server machine. It has got quite a few advantages that include:
- Automated operations
- Configurations using VM management systems
- Cost savings due to the hardware decoupling of Network Functions (NF).
Virtualized Network Function (VNF)A Virtualized Network Function (VNF) is an NF designed for virtualized environments. VNFs run in VMs and are connected to a virtual overlay network that runs on top of a physical underlay network. VNFs constitute all the features and functions of dedicated hardware NFs excluding performance and scalability.
Benefits of VNF
- VNFs can be easily pre-staged to handle the increase in traffic workloads.
- The use of VNF offers service chaining, i.e., a set of interconnected VNFs can be easily used to assemble a uniform customer application.
- There is a good understanding of performance and scalability requirements, just like in any other network environment.
- Also, the network operations and architecture are very similar to physical networks due to which users who have worked with physical networks do not find difficulty in working with VNFs.
Challenges in VNF Adoption
- Impact on performance due to the overhead caused by VM software
- Long boot times even during normal maintenance and failure restart; burst scenarios impact the availability.
- During scale-out, VNF requires investment in additional servers and network gears.
- The VM resources can also potentially sit idle.
- VNF resource allocation is not precise enough to meet the traffic workload demands.
- VNF is considered as a single atomic unit for development, testing, deployment, and troubleshooting. This means that VNF is implemented as code monoliths, which adds complexity.
What are the Cloud Native Network Functions?CNFs are those network functions that are designed to run inside containers. CNFs are the cloud-native networks that inherit all the operational and architectural principles of cloud computing. These principles also include the K8s lifecycle management, resiliency, observability, and agility. Some of the requirements of a CNF implementation are:
- Lightweight and stateless data plane configuration to meet the cloud-native speed.
- A robust and feature-rich software data plane
- Userspace networking to keep kernel immutable in a CNF network for performance gains
- Availability of common APIs for faster and simplified development and integration
- Observability through logging and tracing for testing and operations
Advantages of CNFSo what advantages do Cloud-native Network Functions have onboard? Let's get a brief idea below:
- A CNF is just a pod with special network functionality, which results in a point-to-point userspace communication channel to offer kernel-free packet transmission function.
- CNFs include all the best practices that already exist in application pods. There is a lifecycle management parity with application containers that include environments for development, CI/CD, orchestration, scheduling, distributed management, and logging.
- CNFs operate as durable pods but can be torn down to start up a new instance if new functions are needed. This dynamic nature already has stateful configuration management. A stateless approach is followed for the processing of configuration updates stored in an external data store.
- A smaller footprint reduces resource consumption so that potential savings can be allocated to applications or infrastructure expansion.
- Userspace networking helps in rapid development, innovation, and immutability of features without any interaction with the Linux kernel.
- Resource efficiency and maximum throughput are contributed through userspace processing, multi-core tuning, hardware control, and kernel bypass.
- CNFs are agnostic to host environments. Bare-metal is the most preferred host of choice.