What’s NFV – Network Functions Virtualization?

Network functions Virtualization (NFV) offers a new way to design, deploy and manage networking services. Network Functions Virtualization or NFV  decouples the network functions, such as network address translation (NAT), firewalling, intrusion detection, domain name service (DNS), caching, etc., from proprietary hardware appliances, so they can run in software. It’s designed to consolidate and deliver the networking components needed to support a fully virtualized infrastructure – including virtual servers, storage and even other networks.  It utilizes standard IT virtualization technologies that run on high-volume service, switch and storage hardware to virtualize network functions. It is applicable to any data plane processing or control plane function in both wired and wireless network infrastructures.

Example of How a Managed Router Service Would be Deployed with NFV.

Example of a Managed Router Service would be Deployed with NFV

History of NFV

The concept for Network Functions Virtualization or NFV originated from service providers who were looking to accelerate the deployment of new network services to support their revenue and growth objectives. They felt the constraints of hardware-based appliances, so they wanted to apply standard IT virtualization technologies to their networks.

To accelerate progress towards this common goal, several providers came together and created an ETSI Industry Specification Group for NFV. (Full member list). The goal is to define the requirements and architecture for the virtualization of network functions. The group is currently working on the standards and will be delivering the first specifications soon.

The Benefits of NFV

NFV virtualizes network services via software to enable operators to:

  • Reduce CapEx: reducing the need to purchase purpose-built hardware and supporting pay-as-you-grow models to eliminate wasteful overprovisioning.
  • Reduce OpEX: reducing space, power and cooling requirements of equipment and simplifying the roll out and management of network services.
  • Accelerate Time-to-Market: reducing the time to deploy new networking services to support changing business requirements, seize new market opportunities and improve return on investment of new services. Also lowers the risks associated with rolling out new services, allowing providers to easily trial and evolve services to determine what best meets the needs of customers.
  • Deliver Agility and Flexibility: quickly scale up or down services to address changing demands; support innovation by enabling services to be delivered via software on any industry-standard server hardware.

Additional Resources:

Network Functions Virtualisation – Introductory White Paper

Network Functions Virtualisation