Seriously, Reg, you care about a software licensing standard?

Yup, because this one will stop virtual network functions falling over because of fine print

Yeah, we know: even the headline probably started you yawning, and the European Telecommunications Standards Institute's (ETSI's) quiet December announcement of a Network Function Virtualisation (NFV) Licensing Management effort doesn't seem that arresting.

It was, however, important to network operators and admins, because if you're running 10,000 instances of a function in virtualised containers, you don't want the 10,001st to fail because of a licensing small print.

Hence ETSI's Report on License Management for NFV [PDF], the beginning of a push to work out how to let Operational Support Systems / Business Support Systems (OSS/BSS) help manage licenses in a heterogeneous NFV environment.

As the document notes, licence management would speed up NFV service provisioning, eliminate the need to create custom licence management procedures for different virtual network functions (VNFs), make it easier for the admin to get licence usage information, cut down licence errors, and simplify licence management.

As CableLabs' network technologies principal architect Don Clarke wrote late last week, getting licensing right is fundamental to the economics of NFV in a large network operator.

The standards effort, he wrote, should also give start-ups a leg-up: “Interoperability for automated license management transactions between software providers and network operators will be crucial and we want to level the playing field for innovative small software vendors to engage with the cable industry by specifying standardised approaches.”

Clarke wrote that the requirements list includes standardising VNF license “methods, mechanisms and protocols”; automating license processes so they can scale; letting networks “bootstrap in all possible scenarios”; and making sure VNFs run even if there's a licence error.

That's a challenge, because there's already a large number of licensing models out there, as detailed by BT's Peter Willis, including “perpetual, pre-pay, post-pay, pay-per-use, pay-per-GByte, pay-per-Gbit, pay-by-maximum-instances, pay-per-day, pay-per-month, pay-per-minute”.

Another thing NFV users have encountered is that their environments have several open source license variants sitting alongside proprietary licenses with different payment terms.

From here, the ETSI group will go to work specifying license management features and APIs, a project due to land in Release 3 of the NFV specifications in the northern summer of 2018. ®

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