Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) is a key technology for network automation and has been instrumental to materialize the disruptive view of 5G and beyond mobile networks. In particular, 5G embraces NFV to support the automated and agile provision of telecommunication and vertical services as a composition of versatile virtualized components, referred to as Virtual Network Functions (VNFs). It provides a high degree of flexibility in placing these components on distributed NFV infrastructures (e.g., at the network edge, close to end users). Still, this flexibility creates new challenges in terms of VNF connectivity. To address these challenges, we introduce a novel secure link-layer connectivity platform, L2S. Our solution can automatically be deployed and configured as a regular multi-site NFV service, providing the abstraction of a layer-2 switch that offers link-layer connectivity to VNFs deployed on remote NFV sites. Inter-site communications are effectively protected using existing security solutions and protocols, such as IP security (IPsec). We have developed a functional prototype of L2S using open-source software technologies. Our evaluation results indicate that this prototype can perform IP tunneling and cryptographic operations at Gb/s data rates. Finally, we have validated L2S using a multi-site NFV ecosystem at the Telefonica Open Network Innovation Centre (5TONIC), using our solution to support a multicast-based IP television service.
Electronics 2021, 10(15), 1868;