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White Paper | December 2014

Media Processing in NFV Architectures


Introduction
Across the IT industry, providers are rapidly moving towards the benefits of agility,
flexibility, and cost savings offered by virtualized environments. While data centers
and network architects have been investigating Software Defined Networks (SDN)
to simplify their networks and reduce operational costs, service and solution
providers are evolving their networks to a Network Functions Virtualization (NFV)
architecture to realize the network flexibility and infrastructure reuse gained by
deploying virtualized workloads and applications across a generic pool of underlying
infrastructure, along with the service orchestration and management required to
support rapid service deployment.
Obviously, costs associated with dedicated infrastructure-per-application can be
reduced by moving to fully virtualized infrastructure and applications. At the same
time, issues such as cost-benefit tradeoffs, service level agreements (SLAs), quality,
and reliability must be addressed before the benefits of a virtualized environment can
be fully realized. Real-time applications place special requirements for virtualized
environments, and real-time multimedia communications, such as those performed
by a Media Resource Function (MRF), place particularly stringent demands on an
underlying virtualized infrastructure.
This paper briefly reviews the general benefits that NFV architectures offer to service
and solution providers and then describes the challenges posed by fully virtualized
environments for real-time applications in general, and media processing applications
in particular. The paper then shows solutions the industry is developing to meet these
challenges and shows how the Radisys virtualized Media Resource Function (vMRF)
is ready to deploy as a Virtualized Network Function (VNF) in an NFV environment
leveraging VMwares vSphere technology.

CONTENTS
Why Virtualize? pg. 2
The Drive Toward Network Functions
Virtualization pg. 2
Real-time Applications and Media
Processing Challenges in an NFV
Architecture pg. 2
Radisys vMRF on NFV: a Ready-to-deploy
VNF pg. 4
VMware Virtualization Technology for
NFV pg. 6
Management and Orchestration of the
Radisys vMRF pg. 6
Implications for Cloud Providers pg. 7
Radisys Virtualized Media Processing
Solution pg. 8
References pg. 8

Prepared in collaboration with:

Media Processing in NFV Architectures | Radisys White Paper

Why Virtualize?
The benefits of virtualization are not new to the server and
data center industry; however, greater use and an increasing
number of deployments of virtualized applications are
enabling greater efficiencies and continuing to decrease the
total cost of ownership across many industries, including
the telecommunications space. In the era of rapid service
creation and lifecycle management, creation and deployment
of virtualized applications, decoupled from the multiplicity
of underlying hardware specifics and host OS variants, is an
essential requirement.
Virtualization technology enhancements and optimizations
from a real-time performance and rapid deployment
perspective are enabling new classes of communications
services to be cloud-deployable. Complete end-to-end
communications infrastructure, as well as end-user
applications, allow services to be hosted on general-purpose
compute servers. Services can be deployed with a small initial
footprint then expanded in nearreal time, scaled up to meet
peak traffic demands and scaled down as traffic slows. This
improves the overall flexibility of the underlying compute
and network infrastructure to be redeployable for other
applications and services.

The Drive toward Network


Functions Virtualization
The NFV architecture was developed by a consortium of
service providers to address the special needs and challenges
of service providers. In NFV, network node functions are
virtualized into building blocks that may be connected into
service solutions. By virtualizing network functions, providers
hope to create savings in energy, capital investment and
operational costs by improving management, resource
allocation, scalability, and resilience while at the same time
increasing speed of deployment, service agility, and network
flexibility.
The original white paper, created by an industry specifications
group (ISG) within the European Telecommunications
Standards Institute (ETSI) in October 2012 , set out the
benefits, enablers and challenges for NFV as distinct from
cloud and SDN. The primary driver and focus of NFV, versus
more generic cloud compute architectures and deployments
that have been available in the IT industry for well over a
decade, is based on carrier deployments in particular
the ability to virtualize essentially all aspects of the carrier
network.

Standardization bodies, particularly ETSI, continue to define


the NFV architecture, and NFV now has its own ISG (Industry
Specification Group) within ETSI. Dedicated working groups
within the ETSIs NFV domain are supported by a wide range of
industry participants and contributors, including the following
focused work groups:

Network Function Virtualization

NFV INF (Architecture of the Virtualization Infrastructure)

NFV MAN (Management and Orchestration)

NFV NOC (Network Operators Council)

NFV PER (Performance and Portability)

NFV REL (Reliability and Availability)

NFV SEC (Security)

NFV SWA (Software Architecture)

NFV TSC (Technical Steering Committee)

Real-Time Applications and Media


Processing Challenges in an NFV
Architecture
In the ongoing definition of NFV, particular focus is being
placed on ensuring that real-time communication applications
are adequately accommodated within the architecture. The
capacity and responsiveness of the application must not be
overly degraded by running on top of a virtualized infrastructure
that includes hypervisors, host operating systems, and guest
operating systems vis vis applications running on dedicated
bare metal deployments.
A Media Resource Function (MRF), as defined in IMS and 3GPP
Architectures, provides key media processing capabilities for
a diverse set of communications applications in telecom as
well as enterprise unified communications systems. Example
services include multimedia multiparty conferencing, telcom
network services (such as network tones and announcements),
transcoding for VoLTE, VoWiFi, or WebRTC services, interactive
voice and video response (IVVR), multimedia recording or
streaming in contact centers or in Lawful Intercept use cases.
As for other real-time applications, it is important for an MRF
to have uncompromised access to underlying network and
processing resources. But for real-time media processing
applications, it is even more important to ensure that the
quality and reliability of the media is not degraded as compared

Media Processing in NFV Architectures | Radisys White Paper

to non-virtualized, bare-metal deployments or as compared


to Media Resource Functions (MRFs) deployed on dedicated,
purpose-built hardware.
Real-time IP media processing requires hard real-time
response with low delay and jitter performance. Some of the
key quality and reliability metrics expected of a real-time
communication network element such as an MRF are:

Predictable media processing latency and response


times. A standard metric is 5 msec packetization for all
active call sessions being processed. For example, if an
MRF instance is concurrently processing 4000 active
media-enabled callers, then each of the 4000 sessions
must be concurrently processed with no more than 5 msec
packetization latency.
Media jitter management that adapts in real time to
varying network conditions. This feature is an essential
media processing capability for IP networks because the
MRF supports endpoints and callers from a diverse set of
access networks; for example, dedicated to unmanaged
wired IP networks and mobile networks from managed LTE
to unmanaged WiFi networks.
Adaptive performance in real time to varying workloads
and varying media processing use cases. A hard realtime application such as the MRF must handle varying
call scenariosfor instance from low bandwidth to

Table 1: Courtesy of ETSI TS 23.203 Release 12 (Table 6.1.7)

high bandwidth with high compute utilizationvarying


drastically over short periods of time. As a result, dynamic
compute core-allocation, memory allocation schemes,
and network I/O need rapid and adaptive reallocation to
provide the greatest capacity of the given server without
sacrificing the media quality expected from the MRF.

Reliability and redundancy. The MRF may be expected to


meet the carrier-grade availability requirements typically
sought for real-time communications services, as opposed
to best-effort Over The Top (OTT) services.

Unlike many other classes of applications, services like IP


media processing, which involve a certain kind of real-time
workload, cannot be commercialized unless the requisite level
of quality of service is in place. This has implications for the
underlying virtualization technology, because quality of service
characteristics such as latency and jitter must be considered in
the aggregate, horizontally across the entire solution stack.
Long Term Evolution (LTE) mobile applications and services
have a well-defined Quality of Service (QoS) mandated by
ETSI through the QoS Classification Indicator (QCI). The QCI
describes the response time required for various types of
classes of services offered over the LTE network, categorized
by the real-time or nearreal-time nature of these services.
Services are classified as being Guaranteed Bit Rate (GBR)
or nonGuaranteed Bit Rate (non-GBR). Table 1 shows the
standardized QCI characteristics.

Media Processing in NFV Architectures | Radisys White Paper

At the same time, as IP media processing moves further away


from bare-metal hardware, challenges in providing hard realtime performance increase, particularly in fully virtualized
environments. Adaptive processing, for example, requires a
highly optimized virtual machine (VM) and hypervisor. The
dynamic compute core-allocation, memory allocation schemes,
and network I/O required by the MRF must be assisted by a
highly tuned VM/hypervisor with associated I/O optimization
for example, NIC partitioning and Single Root I/O Virtualization
(SR-IOV).
Similarly, workload sharing, which is one of the premises
of infrastructure reusability, must protect the real-time
processing response. In a virtualized environment, the
virtualized MRF running on top of a given compute server may
be running alongside a completely different application with
compute, I/O, and storage needs of its own. Even so, the MRF,
which is supporting real-time communications applications
with high sensitivity to real-time processing response, must
not be affected by other non or softreal-time applications
running alongside the MRF in another virtual machine on the
same physical server.
Elasticity of resources is a fundamental requirement and driver
for virtualized resources, particularly for cloud deployments.
Implications for real-time applications become evident as
elasticity of resource in the real-time media processing domain
pose challenges. This is where the underlying virtualized
infrastructure needs to provide elasticity and scalability
meeting the hard real-time requirements of media processing
elements such as the MRF.

The Radisys vMRF on NFV: a


Ready-to-deploy VNF
The NFV architecture separates the Network Function
Virtualization Infrastructure (NFVI) and Virtual Network
Functions (VNFs). The NFVI includes the virtualization layer
(for example, the layer supplied by VMware), to support
multiple VNFs running over a common NFVI. The NFVI and
VNF components are shown in the simplified NFV architecture
diagram in Figure 1 below.
An IMS has many functions defined in the 3GPP standards
all of which are deployable as virtualized functions in
NFV. In Figure 1, each IMS VNF is shown in a different color,
representing the fact that each IMS element may be provided
by a different vendor. For the purposes of this discussion, the 4
key elements related to IMS service delivery are as follows:

Home Subscriber System (HSS). The HSS is a database


that maintains subscriber-related profiles and all of the
information required to permit session establishment,
such as subscriber location and IP address. The HSS also
performs authentication and authorization tasks for the
IMS entities processing the calls.

Call State Control Function (CSCF). The CSCF is usually


a SIP server providing a point of contact in the signaling
plane, and may also provide session control and basic call
processing involving media processing requests to the

Virtualized Network Functions (VNFs)


EMS

EMS

EMS

EMS

vHSS

vCSCF

vTAS

vMRF

Virtual Computing

Virtual Storage

Virtual Network

Virtualization Layer
Hardware Resources
Virtual Computing

Virtual Storage

Virtual Network

Network Functions Virtualization Infrastructure (NFVI)

Figure 1: Virtualized IMS in simplified NFV architecture.

Media Processing in NFV Architectures | Radisys White Paper

MRF for playing prompts and collecting digits. The CSCF


communicates with the HSS using the DIAMETER protocol,
which is an evolution of RADIUS.

Telecom Application Server (TAS) The TAS provides


supplementary voice and video services for SIP
subscribers. While CSCF may perform basic session
control, enhanced services, such as Voice Call Continuity
(VCC), conferencing, or video adverts, are usually
performed by a TAS.
Media Resource Function (MRF) The MRF provides the
shared IP media processing resource for IP audio and video
packet streams. The MRF is controlled by the CSCF and
TAS servers.

Of the VNFs present in a virtualized IMS, the vMRF arguably


has the most stringent real-time requirements. It is the only
element processing bearer media streams, as opposed to the
call control and SIP signaling functions of the CSCF and TAS
and the database functions of the HSS.
In Figure 1, a red dotted line defines the boundary of the
virtualized MRF function and the underlying NFVI. One of
the key benefits of virtualization is the ability to quickly turn
up capacity as required and then turn capacity off when not
required. To achieve this, each virtualized function could be
packaged in Open Virtualization Format (OVF) an open,
secure, portable, efficient and extensible format for packaging
and distributing software to be run in virtual machines. Figure

Open Virtualization Format


vMRF - Package #1

2 shows how two vMRF VNFs could be deployed as two OVF


packages. The red dotted line maps the functionality boundary
in the NFV architecture view in Figure 1, to the implementation
details shown in Figure 2.
The intent is that each vendor would supply their IMS
functionality for VNF deployment as an OVF package
containing the application software, host operating system, as
well as configuration defining its requirements for virtualized
hardware, networking, and storage resources. During runtime, the management software monitors demand for various
IMS services, and then turns up or turns down OVF packages
of virtualized MRFs as required. These OVF packages would
run on the VMware virtualization layer, which abstracts the
physical computing, network, and storage resources on the
Intel x86 hardware, maintaining the virtualized computing,
storage, and network resources to run a vMRF instance, in
parallel with all the other VNFs running on the virtualization
layer at the same time.
Historically, to deliver high performance IP media processing
required purpose-built Digital Signal Processing (DSP)
hardware. In recent years, the Radisys MRF has delivered
best-of-breed IP media processing as a software application
deployed on commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) servers, where
the Host and Guest Operating Systems and drivers have been
tuned to deliver real-time performance. Most recently, the
software MRF technology has evolved to now be deployable as
a virtualized MRF in an NFV architecture.

Open Virtualization Format


vMRF - Package #2

Virtualized MRF
Operating System
Virtual
Computing

Virtual
Storage

Virtual
Network

Virtualized MRF
Operating System
Virtual
Computing

Virtual
Storage

Virtualization Layer

Intel x86 Xeon 64-bit Architecture


Figure 2: Virtualized MRF as two OVF packages running on VMware virtualization technology.

Virtual
Network

Media Processing in NFV Architectures | Radisys White Paper

The Radisys virtualized MRF (vMRF) has been extensively


tuned to be deployed as a high-performance, best-of-breed
media processing VNF. It is optimized for VMware and other
hypervisors to produce high-quality, reliable real-time response
in NFV architectures. The Radisys vMRF is designed to deliver
optimized performance within an NFV deploymenteven under
high load.

Management and Orchestration of


the Radisys vMRF
Figure 1 showed a simplified view of NFV architecture that
omitted Management and Orchestration (MANO) components.
MANO components provide critical management facilities for
NFVI components and for the set of VNFs deployable on the NFVI.
An NFV environment is controlled by MANO functions
as defined by ETSIs NFV workgroups. Management and
orchestration of MRFs within an NFV-compliant deployment
is intended to enable elasticity, managed workflow, and
provide QoS for hard real-time IP servicesmanaging the
entire pool of virtualized infrastructure while maintaining
the requirements demanded by a real-time communications
system. This orchestration is described in an ETSI NFV case
study. OpenStack is an open-source cloud computing software
platform often used to provide MANO components in NFV
deployments. NFV architecture fits well within the OpenStack
framework and its associated functional components.
Use cases for MRF management and orchestration include:

Onboarding or creating MRF deployable instances via


containers such as Open Virtualization Format (OVF).
Realized by VMwares vCenter and available through
OpenStack

Hardware resource management, such as selecting


compute servers. Realized by VMwares vCenter and
available through OpenStack

Instantiating VMs, such as a virtualized MRF on allocated


hardware resources. Realized by VMwares vCenter and
available through OpenStack

Provisioning and configuring virtualized MRFs pre-runtime.


Realized by VMwares vCenter and available through
OpenStack

Updating configuration post-runtime for service chaining


via NFV Forwarding Graphs mechanism

Monitoring and reporting on MRF instance performance


and resource loading

VMware Virtualization
Technology for NFV
Rapid deployment and service agility are key
value-adds for virtualized infrastructure, as are
infrastructure savings resulting from reusability.
But VMware knows that you can only fully
realize ROI when you consider the whole shared
infrastructure, horizontally across the stack
hardware, hypervisor, host OS, guest OS, and
applications.
VMwares features and optimizations, fully
supported by the Radisys vMRF, can provide a
virtualized environment with real-time media
processing performance near that of bare metal.
VMware vSphere 5.5, supporting VM hardware
version 10, offers specific enhancements
to enable fast and predictable response
times for latency-sensitive applications
with unpredictable workloads. vSphere live
migration enabled through vMotion allows the
relocation of an entire running virtual machine
from one physical server to another, with
minimal downtime. In an NFV deployment, this
means the vMRF retains its network identity
and connections, ensuring a seamless migration
process. Management of memory and CPU
two resources critical for IP media processing
is flexible and configurable at the VM level.
Network adaptors have also been optimized
for real-time applications. VMwares DRS
(Distributed Resource Scheduler) provides an
additional layer of flexibility and control of the
underlying resources in automated or manual
modes to ensure optimal use of the underlying
hardware resources as workloads shift overtime
and require continual re-assignments and
optimizations.

Media Processing in NFV Architectures | Radisys White Paper

NFV Management
and Orchestration
OSS/BSS
Heat Template

Os-Ma

Service, VNF and Infrastructure Description

Se-Ma

EMS

EMS

EMS

vHSS

vCSCF

vTAS

vMRF

Vn-NF

Vn-NF

Vn-NF

Vn-NF

Nova-Compute
Ve-Vnfm

VNF
Manager(s)

Nova-Network
Or-Vi

Vi-Vnfm

Cinder/swi
Virtual Computing
Nova

Virtual Storage

Virtual Network

Nova-Network

Virtualization Layer
Vi-Ha

Neutron

Nf-Vi

Hardware Resources
Virtual Computing
= OpenStack Components

Heat Engine

Or-Vnfm

Virtualized Network Functions (VNFs)


EMS

NFV
Orchestrator

Virtual Storage

Virtual Network

Virtualized
Infrastructure
Manager(s)

Nova-Network
Nova-Network
Nova-Network

Network Functions Virtualization Infrastructure (NFVI)

Figure 3: NFV architecture with OpenStack component mappings.

Instance Fault Management, Reporting, and Corrective


Measures. Supported in OpenStack.

Turning MRF instances up, down, or re-scaling based on


service and business logic.

Figure 3 shows a view of NFV architecture mapped to


OpenStack components.
As a standards-defined IMS core network element, the Radisys
vMRF integrates well within OpenStack-defined management
and orchestration capabilities. The NFVI Manager manages
the complete suite of network elements comprising this
infrastructure, including compute, network/IO, and storage. The
VNF Managers, as well as the Orchestrator functions, enable
MRF VNFs to be managed along with other network elements
in the signaling domain, such as Application Servers or Session
Border Controllers.
The VNF Managers run under the control of the higher-level
NFV Orchestrator, which is typically responsible for and
particular to unique business service logicfor example,
instantiating MRFs during peak conferencing hours and winding
them down and releasing resources during off-hours. The
Orchestration controller typically needs to be customizable to
individual NFV deployments, as it must provide flexibility suited
to the business logic.
A deployment within a flexible, NFV-compliant management
and orchestration platform such as the OpenStack framework
is a cornerstone to the capabilities and performance characteristics
expected from a media plane element such as the MRF.

Implications for Cloud Providers


Media processing quality and performance of interactive 2-way
services are realized as a real-time, end-to-end experience,
not merely isolated to the QoS performance or capabilities of
the virtualized node providing the IP media processing. Metrics
and KPIs for end-to-end media processing performance include
QoS, bandwidth, response times, redundancy, and failover
strategies.
The Radisys vMRF can be deployed for private/carrier cloud
deployments, such as the AT&T telecom cloud environment,
and also in public and over-the top (OTT) services, such
as Amazon EC2. Private and carrier clouds offer more
opportunities for tuningfor example, advanced QoS
strategies (eg: QCI controls as described earlier) and MPLS
tagging.
Public clouds, with proprietary implementations, often
align with NFV general principles while not being fully NFVcompliant. Such environments are typically not engineered to
provide and support telecom applications and services. Cloud
providers need to be cognizant of the hard requirements for IP
media processing and engineer the environment accordingly.
The Radisys vMRF has been deployed in both private and
public clouds. It has been deployed in private clouds adhering
to principles of the NFV architecture. The Radisys vMRF has
also been deployed as an Amazon Machine Image (AMI) in the
Amazon EC2 Cloud.

Media Processing in NFV Architectures | Radisys White Paper

Radisys Virtualized Media


Processing Solution
The telecom industry is in the early stages of a major
infrastructure upgrade from network functions running as
embedded software on purpose-built hardware platforms
to virtualized software functions running on COTS server
technology. Many network functions responsible for call
orchestration, signaling, and subscriber databases are well
suited for early migration to virtualized technology. However,
network functions that process actual media packets, such
as a Media Resource Function in an IMS architecture, have
very stringent requirements for real-time packet processing
performance. Hence, the virtualization of an MRF, while
certainly possible and proven in telecom cloud networks today,
needs to be done with careful technical consideration.
The Radisys virtualized MRF (vMRF) has been extensively
tuned to be deployed as a high-performance, best-of-breed
media processing VNF. The Radisys vMRF implementation for
VMware has been extensively optimized to take full advantage
Vspheres real-time performance enhancements and features
to deliver high-quality, reliable real-time response in NFV

Intel Xeon E5-2600 v3 Multi-core Processors


Breakthrough Performance
The latest members of the Intel Xeon processor E5 family
deliver the best combination of performance, built-in
capabilities, and cost-effectiveness to address technical
computing challenges, enable cloud deployments, accelerate
processor performance for peak loads, deliver intelligent
storage or power data analytics and rapid processing for
NFV data flows.

architectures. If you require optimized IMS performance in an


NFV deployment, even under high load, a Radisys virtualized
MRF with VMwares vSphere, running on modern Intel x86
Xeon 64-bit multi-core processors, provides a robust, reliable,
high-performance virtualized media processing solution.

References
i

Available at http://portal.etsi.org/NFV/NFV_White_Paper.pdf

ii


AT&T
Domain 2.0 and NFV Architecture: AT&T Vision Alignment
Challenge Technology Survey - AT&T Domain 2.0 Vision White Paper
@ http://www.att.com/Common/about_us/pdf/AT&T%20Domain%20
2.0%20Vision%20White%20Paper.pdf

iii

 latest white paper issued by working members is available here:


The
http://portal.etsi.org/nfv/nfv_white_paper2.pdf

http://www.qtc.jp/3GPP/Specs/24880-810.pdf, Reference 2: MRF


Case Study: http://docbox.etsi.org/ISG/NFV/Open/Latest_Drafts/NFV
MAN001v061-%20management%20and%20orchestration.pdf
iv

From ETSI TS 23.203 Release 12 (Table 6.1.7)

vi

 S GS NFV-MAN 001 V0.6.1 (2014-07)) - Appendix (A.1) IMS MRF


G
management and orchestration case study

About VMware
VMware, the global leader in virtualization and cloud
infrastructure, enables businesses to thrive in the cloud era
by transforming the way they build, deliver and consume
information technology resources. Leveraging VMware
vSphere, the most widely deployed foundation for cloud
computing, VMware enables Enterprises, and Telco Networks
to adopt a cloud model that addresses their unique business
challenges.

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December 2014