Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV) Automation

February 9, 2021 by Anthony Lin

Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform acts as the single pane of glass to automate different manual tasks in a heterogeneous cloud and virtualization environments; be it Red Hat OpenStack Platform, VMware vSphere, bare metal or the next-generation Telco cloud-native platform.

To manage cloud infrastructures like Red Hat OpenStack Platform, we will need to manage not just the individual cloud services (configuration), but also the interactions and relationships between them (orchestration).  Ansible Content Collections for Red Hat OpenStack Platform allows automation and management of various OpenStack offerings powered by different prominent Telco network vendors - such as Ericsson, Huawei and Nokia.

Bringing the values and benefits of Ansible automation to Telco NFV operations and deployments daily jobs helps avoid a lot of manual tasks, saves time, improves consistency and frees the existing resources to do more non-repetitive tasks to focus on innovation.  

The following is an example of an Asia Pacific Telco using Ansible to implement NFV automation.


The Telco customer has multiple Red Hat OpenStack Platform clouds from different vendors, i.e. Ericsson, Huawei, Nokia, VMware, and would like to have an automation tool that acts as a single pane of glass to fill some gaps in their existing NFV orchestrators (NFVO).  

NFVO is a key component of the NFV management and network orchestration (MANO) architectural framework and is typically to perform resource orchestration and network service orchestration, as well as other functions. 

The full ecosystem solution includes:

  1. Sending email and SMS alerts to the Operation teams upon completion of a task
  2. Integration with market leading cloud management platforms (CMPs) and IT service managements (ITSM) such as ServiceNow and BMC Remedy via RESTful APIs.  For instance, the snow_record Collection for ServiceNow is widely used in the market today. 

NFV blog 1

Below are the four Ansible NFV automation use cases discussed below on a specific environment and may vary for some scenarios.


Residual Resource Clean Up

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Ansible Automation Platform is used to check and remove residual virtual machines (VMs) left behind on Kernel-based virtual machine (KVM) compute hosts on a periodic basis by comparing the list of VMs between OpenStack Nova and the KVM compute hosts. This can happen in the event of a failed heat stack deletion, resulting in residual VMs on the KVM compute hosts. Prior to Ansible, manual actions had to be taken by the Operations team to identify the KVM host with residual VMs and manual deletion performed to clean up the resources.

While it is the NFV orchestrator’s responsibility to clean up resources/workloads, there can be situations where Ansible is used to augment the NFVO to perform a specific task. This helps to ensure consistency and reduce human error.


Network Connectivity and Sanity Test

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In the second use case, Ansible Automation Platform was used for testing the configuration of external networks (eBGP and iBGP peering) for tenants. This can be achieved by having Ansible to spin up Cirros Test VMs in the neutron network and performing ping tests across the VMs and towards the external network. Any failure will lead to auto-generation of traceroute reports for further troubleshooting. If all goes well, the test VMs will be destroyed automatically and a report will be sent to the NFVi Operations team. Note that a report will be sent out regardless of test results.

In order to achieve end-to-end automation, Ansible was also used to configure the physical Cisco routers outside of the OpenStack cluster - the Ansible Content Collection for Cisco IOS (available in Automation Hub) was used in areas such as VLAN and network interfaces configuration. As Ansible is agentless in nature, there is no need to install agents on the target network devices, allowing for simple and effortless integrations between different network elements.

While some of these activities can be done using multiple niche toolings, it is much better and more efficient to make use of a common platform like Ansible Automation Platform due to its large ecosystem with various networking vendors, agentless nature, powerful workflows as well as easy to learn automation language (Ansible Playbooks are written in YAML).


Inventory Image Reconciliation

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In the third use case, the customer pointed out that they can end up in a situation where the image list as queried from the NFVO is different from the one in OpenStack Platform. This can happen if a human operator by-passed the NFVO and deletes an image directly from OpenStack Platform. 

We note that such behavior is peculiar to a particular NFVO running on a particular software version. In view of such limitations, the customer has opted to use Ansible to automatically reconcile the glance/nova images, with the aim of ensuring consistency throughout.


VM Evacuation

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The last use case is around situations where Nova evacuations are unable to happen automatically (due to limitations on the NFV/NFVO). The customer has identified the specific scenario where they adopted Ansible to evacuate VMs from a failed KVM host to an operational one (via nova evacuate); meanwhile, all other evacuations are still handled by the respective NFVO.

Customer Outcome Summary

Ansible Automation Platform can help to augment NFVO and assists Telco NFVi operations in the Day-2 operations of their multi-vendor, hybrid NFVi environments. Ansible helps to lower the costs of operations and ensures consistency. This will allow the Telco industry to provide faster and better services to their customers.



*Co-Authors of this blog

Zhang Jin is a Consultant based in Singapore covering Asian countries.  His area of concentration includes Ansible automation and OpenStack. Prior to joining Red Hat, Jin worked for Singtel as an infrastructure engineer where he used Puppet to automate 300+ Linux server provisioning and configuration for its central billing system BCC - Billing Customer Care.

Wilson Toh is Cloud & Infrastructure Portfolio Sales Specialist, ANZ region and APAC Telco Communities of Practice Manager who is passionate about identifying, developing and executing strategies and drives the cloud-native scalable architecture with full automation and containerization from core to the edge leading the customer success and next level of technology evolution adoption..


Network Automation


Anthony Lin

Anthony Lin is a Senior Specialist Solution Architect, Cloud Automation, covering the Asian Growth & Emerging Markets (GEMs). Anthony previously worked for Ericsson as a DevOps engineer on the AT&T Integrated Cloud/Network Cloud Project in the United States. In this role, he has used Ansible automation to deploy and upgrade more than 50 customized OpenStack cloud clusters across the U.S and international production sites. He was also working as a core member/developer of the OpenStack Airship project prior to joining Red Hat.

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