Hello caller, CNCF cloud-native network function certification engages

The Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) is all about creating, building and nurturing sustainable ecosystems for cloud-native software.

In line with the organization’s KubeCon + CloudNativeCo conference this week in Detroit, Michigan, the CNCF has announced its first set of certified products that form part of the newly launched (May 2022) Cloud Native Network Function (CNF) Certification Program. 

The CNF Certification Program aims to help Communication Service Providers (CSPs) and other telecommunications organizations identify which Network Equipment Providers (NEPs) follow cloud-native best practices.

The first four participants to achieve certification include F5, Juniper Networks, MATRIXX Software and PANTHEON.tech. 

According to the CNCF, “By utilizing these certified products and solutions, CSPs can adopt Kubernetes and cloud tools with greater confidence, speeding their time and value to market as they continue to embrace software-defined networking and modern-day infrastructure best practices.”

What is a CNF?

CNFs are applications that implement or facilitate network functionality in a cloud-native way. CSPs and other telecom organizations are migrating away from traditional Virtual Network Functions (VNFs) and Physical Network Functions (PNFs) toward CNFs and Kubernetes-based infrastructures that provide service reliability while lowering capital and operating expenses and encouraging cross-cloud compatibility.

In a recent CNCF Microsurvey, more than 50% of respondents said they would convert between 76% and 100% of their PNF and VNF infrastructure to CNF. The next biggest group of respondents, 23.81%, said they will migrate between half and 75% of their infrastructure to CNF.

When asked why they were moving to CNFs, the reason cited most often was the technology’s ability to help teams quickly roll out new features, updates and upgrades through existing DevOps processes, as part of a wider corporate move to cloud-native would.

CNFs are argued to ease new feature rollout and upgrade transition pain by enabling more flexible deployment, management, configuration and operations of services. CNFs also eliminate vendor lock-in and dependencies, while supporting portability, performance and scale.

Consistency & interoperability

What concerned survey respondents most about the use of CNFs – and Kubernetes – was consistency across platforms and applications, which is why the CNCF’s CNF Certification Program will be such a critical tool. Indeed, the single most significant perceived benefit to CNF certification among respondents to the CNCF microsurvey was interoperability, followed by deployment simplification and a through line for industry best practices.

“CNFs help telecom providers break down the siloed resources and specialized solutions built up through the use of VNFs,” said Priyanka Sharma, executive director of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation. “With that said, it can be a challenging transition, which is why it’s critical for organizations to make use of solutions that have been certified to follow cloud-native best practices. By leveraging products from Certified CNF vendors, telecom providers can ensure the interoperability and neutrality necessary for building out true cloud-native infrastructure. Some of the world’s largest telecom organizations, including Huawei, Nokia, T-Mobile, and Vodafone, already use Kubernetes and other cloud native technologies, and this program will make it easier for others to do the same.”

While many network certifications test Kubernetes platform properties and Cloud Native Network Function (CNF) connectivity, CNCF’s CNF Certification Program gives insights into a CNF’s installability, interoperability and resilience. The certification also promotes workload self-healing as a highly desired, cloud-native property.

“At Juniper Networks, we have long believed that industry standards are the way to go for open competition that improves product quality and benefits both vendors and customers. CNCF’s CNF certification ensures cloud-native products are equally and fairly tested in standard and independent environments, and Juniper believes this initiative will greatly contribute to the overall quality, performance and adoption of cloud-native solutions across the industry,” said Ben Baker, senior director, datacenter and cloud marketing at Juniper Networks.

Ambiguity eliminated

For Vuk Gojnic, squad leader for the Kubernetes Engine at Deutsche Telekom, the main issue in the CNF landscape today is that there are a lot of interpretations of what CNF actually is.

“With the CNF Certification Program this ambiguity is eliminated and we finally have a common denominator for all: platform teams, vendors, CNF teams. It brings the telco world to the next level from standardization that does not fit well in OSS and Cloud Native realm to testing and certification,” said Gojnic.

The CNF Certification Program utilizes CNCF’s CNF Test Suite and supports any product that runs in a certified Kubernetes environment, regardless of vendor implementation. The CNF Test Suite is an open source test suite for telcos to validate how well they are following cloud native principles and best practices, like immutable infrastructure and declarative APIs.