BPMN: Virtual Network Configuration in Spine-Leaf Data Centers

Enterprises require workflows to understand internal processes, how they apply to different branches, and divide responsibility to achieve a common goal. Using a workflow enables to pick & choose, which models are required.

Although there are many alternatives, BPMN is a standard widely used across several fields to graphically depict business processes and manage them.

Notable, although underrated, are its benefits for network administrators. BPMN enables network device management & automation, without having to fully comprehend the different programming languages involved in each task.

What is BPMN?

The Business Process Model & Notation (BPMN) standard graphically represents specifics of business processes in a business process model. In cooperation with the Camunda platform, which provides its own BPMN engine, it can do wonders with network orchestration automation.

BPMN lets enterprises graphically depict internal business procedures and enables companies to render these procedures in a standardized manner. Using BPMN removes the need for software developers to adjust business logic since the entire workflow can be managed through a UI.

In the case of network management, it provides a level of independence, abstracted from the network devices themselves.

This logic behind how business processes are standardized as workflows is present in the Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP) as well.

What is ONAP?

ONAP is an orchestration and automation framework, featuring an open-source software concept, that is robust, real-time, policy-driven, for physical and virtual network functions.

ONAP allows network scaling and VNF/CNF implementations in a fully automated manner. Read our in-depth post on what ONAP is and how you can benefit from its usage. BPMN is implemented within ONAP via Camunda.

Camunda is an open-source platform, used in the ONAP Service Orchestrator – where it serves as one of the core components of the project to handle BPMN 2.0 process flows.

Relationship between ONAP & BPMN

The Service Orchestrator (SO) component, includes a BPMN Execution Engine. Two Camunda products are utilized within ONAP SO:

  • Cockpit: View BPMN 2.0 workflow definitions
  • Modeler: Edit BPMN 2.0 process flows

The SO component is mostly composed of Java & Groovy code, including a Camunda BPMN code-flow.

PANTHEON.tech circumvents the need for SO and uses the Camunda BPMN engine directly. This resulted in a project with SO functionality, without the additional SO components – sort of a microONAP concept.

Features: Camunda & BPMN

The business process modeling is a single action of network orchestration. As with any project integration, it is important to emphasize the project’s strong points, which enabled us to achieve a successful use case.

Benefits of Camunda/BPMN

  • Automation: BPMN provides a library of reusable boxes, which make their use more accessible by avoiding/hiding unnecessary complexity
  • Performant BPMN Engine: the engine provides good out-of-the-box performance, with a variety of operator/DevOps UI tools, as well as BPMN modeling tools
  • User Interface: OOTB user interface, with the option of creating a custom user interface
  • DevOps: easy manipulation & development of processes
  • Scalability: in terms of performance tuning and architecture development for lots of tasks
  • Interoperability: extensible components, REST integration, or script hooks for Groovy, JavaScript & more
  • REST API: available for BPMN engine actions
  • Exceptional Error Handling
  • Scalability: tasks with high execution cadence can be externalized and be implemented as scalable microservices. That provides not only scalability to the system itself but can be applied to the teams and organizations as well
  • Process tracking: the execution of the process is persisted and tracked, which helps with system recovery and continuation of the process execution in partial and complete failure scenarios.

What PANTHEON.tech had to mitigate is, for example, parallelism – running several processes at once. Timing estimation limits the high precision configuration of network devices. Imagine you want to automate a process starting with Task 1. After a certain time, Task 2 takes effect. Timers in BPMN however need manual configuration to tune the interval between jobs & processes.

Our deep dive into this topic resulted in a concept for automating network configurations in spine-leaf data centers, using a lightweight ONAP SO architecture alternative.


Use Case: Virtual Network Configuration in Spine-Leaf Data Centers

PANTHEON.tech has achieved, that the design of this use-cases custom architecture is fully functional and meets the required criteria – to fully adopt network automation in a demanding environment.

Our use-case shows how BPMN can be used as a network configuration tool in, for example, data centers. In other words – how ONAP’s SO and lighty.io could be used to automate your data center.

If you are interested in this use case, make sure to contact us and we can brief you on the details.


by Filip Gschwandtner Leave us your feedback on this post!

You can contact us here!

Explore our PANTHEON.tech GitHub.

Watch our YouTube Channel.