What is a cloud native network function?
A Cloud Native Network Function (CNF) is software that replaces specialized hardware, running in the cloud.
Examples of CNFs can include network routers, bridges, firewalls, and virtual private network (VPN) gateway services. Cloud native network functions replace physical network functions (PNF). PNFs are specially designed hardware devices (with software or embedded systems) that provide essential network services.
CNFs are conceptually similar to Virtual Network Functions (VNFs), a fundamental component of a Network Functions Virtualization (NFVI) infrastructure. Where they differ is the implementation: “virtual” functions imply the presence of resource-intensive virtual machine operations.
“In a virtual machine, virtualization ignores the hardware and runs multiple operating system instances”, explains Intel. “In contrast, containers ignore the operating system, multiple containers on a server share a common operating system kernel. In addition to containers, CNFs use orchestration services that automate service delivery.
What cloud native means
CNFs are built using a microservices architecture, running natively in the cloud. Cloud Native Network Functions replaces the monolithic application model of IT with individual, interconnected microservices. These microservices are hosted in software containers. Containers are runtime environments that include all of the application code, binaries, and dependencies needed for microservices to function.
CNFs share common characteristics in addition to containerization and orchestration. They can be turned on and off almost instantly. Cloud native network functions support the dynamic scale and elasticity required to operate at hyperscale levels. They operate using less compute resources than virtual functions. Orchestration systems like Kubernetes allow these services to operate at the scale and hyper-scale of the data center.
Following the agile principles of DevOps, cloud native network functions can be optimized, enhanced and improved continuously throughout their lifecycle. Cloud native network functions are reusable and flexible. They act as a common infrastructure that enables the rapid creation and deployment of new applications and services over time.
“Cloud native technologies enable organizations to build and run scalable applications in modern and dynamic environments such as public, private and hybrid clouds. Containers, service meshes, microservices, immutable infrastructure, and declarative APIs exemplify this approach, ”said the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF).
The CNCF, together with Linux Foundation Networking (LFN), provided a Cloud native network function test bench. The CNF benchmark provides a baseline for testing network functions as VNF and CNF to compare performance.
“As the telecommunications architecture evolves from VNFs to CNFs, the benefits include cost savings through improved bin packaging, faster development speed, and resilience to failure of individual CNFs, machines and even data centers, ”said the Linux Foundation.
Cloud native network functions and 5G
The 3GPP 5G Core Network standard uses a service-based architecture (SBA). This cloud-native approach to the core network enables and ultimately requires disaggregation of network hardware and software. This is necessary to meet the scale, performance and different service demands of businesses and 5G users.
“Cloud native principles and technology have proven to be an effective acceleration technology for continuously building and operating the world’s largest clouds.” says Cisco.
A cloud-native 5G network provides the fully digitized platform needed to deploy new cloud services and leverage cloud-native 5G benefits such as massive IoT, edge computing, and network slicing.
Cloud Native Network Functions will ultimately help operators move from a non-autonomous 5G (NSA) architecture that relies on a core 4G network to function, to an autonomous 5G (SA). Autonomous 5G combines 5G radios with a cloud-native 5G core network.
“Other benefits that a native microservices-based cloud architecture brings to 5G include stateless and stateful services, a common and shared data layer, abstract infrastructure, and streaming telemetry data,” Intel said. . “But to achieve these benefits, there is a simple truth: A traditional and relatively slow IP routing type network in the data center cannot cope with a cloud-native system that supports service discovery and creates , move and stop microservices instances in real time. . Therefore, CoSPs must learn the basic design principles to build a cloud native architecture. “