Shift from On-prem to Cloud Networking Environments with CNFs


This submit is the primary in a sequence across the Cloud-Native Community Perform Orchestrator (CNFO).

Half 1: What are CNFs?

Earlier than we dig into the Cloud-Native Community Perform Orchestrator (CNFO), let’s begin with Cloud-Native Community Capabilities (CNFs).

The naked bones definition of a CNF is a container which is operating a community perform, akin to a firewall or VPN. Contextually, CNFs are the subsequent stage of an evolution that started with bodily gadgets, progressed to digital community capabilities (VNFs), and is now heading in direction of CNFs. As evident within the identify, “Cloud-Native” Community Capabilities in the end signify a shift from on-premises environments in direction of cloud-based networking environments.

Bodily Gadgets

Bodily gadgets, like routers or switches, are monolithic and function constructed, that means that they run on devoted {hardware} and home all their very own functions. Whereas devoted bodily {hardware} have their boons, they solely carry out one job (i.e. be a router). Consequently, bodily gadgets are costly as constructing out scale and redundancy requires investing in additional {hardware}. If {hardware} goes down, engineers should spend time and sources troubleshooting the gadget. Community engineers noticed a approach to take away devoted {hardware} dependency by implementing digital community capabilities (VNFs).

Digital Community Capabilities

By shifting to VNFs, community engineers began breaking community performance into smaller items. Engineers may rack a generic piece of {hardware} after which run a hypervisor, which permits the working system to run a number of digital machines. Every digital machine runs a VNF. One VNF may home a VPN gateway whereas one other may run a firewall. Segmenting community performance and eradicating {hardware} reliance made constructing scalability and redundancy cheaper. Along with price financial savings, VNFs have been a pure first step, as they’re architecturally and operationally just like bodily networks.

In apply, VNFs fall wanting their preliminary guarantees. VMs are taxing on sources, have lengthy boot up instances, and, typically instances, sit idle. Most notably, VNFs resemble bodily gadgets in that they’re constructed as monolithic, single-purpose digital functions. VNFs have began the networking world on its journey to the cloud, however fall wanting making the ultimate leap.

Cloud-Native Community Capabilities

CNFs signify the subsequent step into cloud-based environments. CNFs break monolithic VNF functions into particular person parts. A number of containers work collectively inside a cluster to create the general community perform.  Every cluster is managed by a Kubernetes-like lifecycle supervisor, akin to fundamental Kubernetes, Openshift, or EKS.

Since CNFs are composed of particular person, light-weight containers, they’re straightforward to spin up or down, which has a cascade of implications. CNFs are able to self-healing: if a person container fails, it’s simply and rapidly changed. Engineers don’t must troubleshoot like they’d a VNF or bodily gadget. As well as, CNFs can run on non-public servers or on the general public cloud, which reduces the necessity for {hardware} funding.

Nonetheless, this final soar into the cloud will in all probability be the most important soar. With the shift to the cloud comes the merging of two established fields, DevOps and Community Engineering (coined NetDevOps). Proper now, there’s a technological and cultural hole as community engineers study to be builders and vice versa.


A part of what we’re making an attempt to do with CNFO is assist bridge the hole between the cloud and the present networking world. As such, I need to hear from you. Are you acquainted with CNFs or are they completely new? How do you see your self utilizing them? Let me know your ideas within the feedback and should you’d like to attach.

To be clear, we don’t assume that bodily gadgets or VNFs are going away completely. Reasonably, community engineers might want to orchestrate a subject composed of all three community perform sorts. Fortunately, orchestrating throughout gadget sorts and at massive scales is the place NSO excels. We are going to dig into how NSO can orchestrate CNFs (in addition to VNFs) in Half 2 of this weblog sequence.

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