Volta’s current approach to Zero Touch Provisioning (ZTP) is based both on a pragmatic view of what can be done in today’s networks with existing equipment, and the goal of being able to support a “pizza box” style of deployment, where no expert technicians are needed on site when deploying new devices, and instead technicians would only need to turn on the box, ensure connectivity and then all configuration of network services in that device would happen in an automated fashion.
Volta´s current ZTP approach can thus be defined as a software-based ZTP. We currently require that Open Network Linux (ONL) Operating System (OS) and the Volta Agent (VA) be pre-loaded in the white box before shipping it to the location where it is going to be deployed. This is because network operators, especially in the context of deployments in access networks, prefer In-band management as the approach to network management. Among other reasons, there is limited space and power available at cell sites. With In-band management, the existing network that carries customer traffic is used to access the deployed devices, instead of using a dedicated, Out-of-Band (OOB) management network.
Even though a complete ZTP functionality could be achieved with off-the-shelf hardware through Open Network Install Environment (ONIE), where a hardware device with just an ONIE client installed (and no OS), reaches an ONIE server using DHCP to download both the OS and basic configuration. A dedicated network connection is assumed between the ONIE client and the ONIE server. If OOB is used, this is a given, through the OOB port of the device. If In-band is used instead, this is not possible because the device would need basic connectivity and routing services through its In-band ports in order to reach the ONIE server, services that are traditionally provided by an OS. To address this limitation, an “In-band ONIE” specification is currently being developed within the Telecom Infra Project (TIP) consortium, relying on APIs provided by the chipset manufacturer such as Broadcom’s KNET API within Broadcom’s SDK, so that the ONIE client can use the In-band ports for communication even when no OS is present in the hardware device. Volta plans to fully support the “In-band ONIE” specification once finalized, and hardware manufacturers support it.
Irrespective of whether OOB or In-band is used, the only additional requirement needed today in addition to preloading both the OS and VA in the hardware device, is configuration information for the VA to reach Volta Cluster, the cloud part of the Volta platform where the control planes of Volta’s virtual routers reside. With this configuration information in place, when the device boots up for the first time, VA will also start and “call home” to the VA registration service running in the Volta Cluster. VA will be authenticated, and the registration service would then check if there were any configurations preloaded in the platform for that device. If so, the configuration will be sent to the VA to be applied automatically. That is, Volta’s software-based ZTP provides an auto-provisioning capability, where configuration can be preloaded in the Volta Cluster in advance of the device being deployed, and then applied automatically when the device is connected and booted up.
This auto-provisioning functionality eliminates the need of having expert technicians on-site to configure the device upon installation because the device can be automatically provisioned upon start. Auto-provisioning includes the creation of one or more virtual routers in the device, as well as the network protocols and services scheduled to run on each of the virtual routers.
Furthermore, the automated process above refers to the deployment of new devices in the network. If the device is already deployed, and what is being deployed is a new virtual router, then there is no need to have any technician at all on-site, because the provisioning of a new virtual router and associated services in an existing device is a completely automated process.
To summarize, Volta provides a software-based ZTP approach that enables a “pizza box” style of deployment through the auto-provisioning capabilities offered by the Volta platform, eliminating the need to have expert technicians on-site when deploying a new hardware device, and avoiding any technicians on-site at all when deploying a new virtual router on an existing device. In addition, the current requirement of preloading devices with ONL and VA will be removed once TIP’s In-band ONIE specification becomes available and supported by hardware devices.