Concepts and approach


Project Goals

The EU Project SoftFIRE has the goal of bringing Network Function Virtualisation (NFV) and Software Defined Networking (SDN) capabilities to a completely virtualised and multi-site federated infrastructure that spans across multiple countries in Europe. The testbed’s foundational aim is to nurture an ecosystem of organizations willing to extend, consolidate, and possibly industrialise solutions in the realm of NFV/SDN with a specific reference to their adoption in 5th Generation (5G) mobile network architectures. SoftFIRE stresses out the importance of federation as a means to:

  • create an open environment capable of encompassing several programmable solutions in the field of NFV/SDN (programmability),
  • identify and solve the interworking issues of the technologies (interoperability), and
  • create a security framework for supporting the needs of NFV/SDN providers (security).


The SoftFIRE federated testbed.

With its multi-site integrated testbed, SoftFIRE provides virtualised Compute, Storage, and Networking resources available for executing on-demand Virtual Network Functions (VNF).

The project, by means of its Open Calls, aims at building compelling use cases in order to prove the viability of the infrastructure, to check the validity of the exposed functionalities, and to functionally extend the set of basic functions needed to support an open, rich and composite service and application ecosystem. The project focuses on becoming a key player in NFV and SDN initiatives, especially in the context of 5G, by providing a virtualisation platform to engineers and researchers from industry and academia.

Virtual Infrastructure Manager

All the SoftFIRE individual testbeds make use of OpenStack. As open source software, OpenStack is considered as the de-facto Virtualized Infrastructure Manager (VIM) in the NFV ecosystem. Development of OpenStack dates back to July 2010, from the collaboration between Rackspace Hosting and NASA. As open source software, OpenStack is supported by a global community of collaborators and developers. The latest release deployed as the virtual infrastructure manager on SoftFIRE component testbeds is OpenStack Newton.

Experimenter Use of the Federated Testbed

The project provides an interface to its approved experimenters, which is in the form of a command line interface (CLI) and a dashboard. By means of using this interface, an experimenter is able to set up a desired experiment, which may involve SDN, monitoring, physical device, and NFV capabilities. Support for each such capability is provided by a dedicated manager software; all of these specialised managers are bound together and coordinated by an Experiment Manager software component. Together, the specialised managers and the Experiment Manager form the SoftFIRE Middleware layer, which provides an effective way to use the underlying virtualisation resources, according to the needs of an experimenter.

High-level SoftFIRE virtualisation architecture.


Orchestration of Virtual Network Functions

The NFV Management and Orchestrator (NFV MANO) layer has been implemented using the Open Baton framework. Open Baton is an open-source ETSI MANO-compliant platform providing an extensible framework for managing and orchestrating VNFs. Open Baton provides mechanisms for deploying VNFs across the multi-site federated infrastructure.

SoftFIRE’s MANO strategy: Multiple controllers and single Open Baton orchestrator.

In this setup, each OpenStack instance is completely separated from and unaware of the presence of other testbeds, however Open Baton provides a single view of the available resources to experimenters being the only access point towards the underneath infrastructure. The setup of a single NFVO controlling multiple PoPs provides the following benefits to the SoftFIRE federated testbed:

  • Possibility for each testbed provider to choose the best OpenStack version to use,
  • Exploitation of the user/experiment separation capability provided by Open Baton,
  • Exploitation of the multiple-PoP management capability provided by Open Baton
  • No need for additional functionalities in the northbound of OpenStack for user management and resource separation,
  • Reduction of the number of Open Baton machines to be maintained by the federated testbed owners.



Although it has various challenges, an integrated federated testbed paves the way to the future network function virtualisation realisations, such as operator control of a virtual mobile network with network slicing, or flexible and scalable multi-site virtual infrastructures to be provided by datacentre operators.

Towards this, the SoftFIRE testbed has enabled a multi-site virtualisation platform – one of the most recent such deployments in the world readily used by experimenters.