This was the question posed towards at the end of a recent NFV roundtable discussion hosted by VanillaPlus which included colleagues from Ericsson, Cisco, JDSU, TMForum, Analysys Mason and Nakina. At the time, my knee-jerk response was “yes”.
Is an orchestrator really the brain? I’ve been thinking a lot about that question over the last week. On the one hand, an orchestrator is a central controller for NFV. Its main responsibilities are orchestration of NFVI resources and management of network services between VNFs (or service chaining). But how does an orchestrator decide what actions to take? Does it learn and make its own decisions after processing inputs from multiple sources, like analytic engines, or is it instructed by other systems, like policy engines? Is it the master controller (i.e. like a brain) or is a slave (i.e. another system that acts based on instruction from other sources)?
Orchestration is also only part of an overall MANO (management and orchestration) strategy. Orchestrators will be supported and supplemented by other “intelligent” management systems like VNFMs and VIMs. It is also unlikely that there will be only one master orchestrator. Many service providers are discussing domain-specific orchestration, with multiple orchestrators which would then be federated together in some fashion. Does this mean that there are multiple brains?
Unquestionably, the orchestrator plays a crucial role. But policy managers, OSS/BSS, analytic sources, VNF managers, and other orchestrators are some of the pieces that will comprise a complete solution. Physical networks are not disappearing and legacy networks will continue to be involved in end-to-end service delivery so service orchestration will need to span all these environments. We are still in the early days and there will be growing pains. Over time some questions will become clearer and others will emerge.
Is an orchestrator the brain of NFV? I would say “not really”. What do you think?