What is Network Function Virtualization NFV?
There is a lot of talk about Network Functional Virtualization and how it could transform the way networks are designed and maintained. What is NFV and does it work?
Network Function Virtualization (NFV) is the virtualization of network services that are currently being carried out by proprietary, dedicated hardware. NFV will decrease the amount of proprietary hardware that’s needed to launch and operate network services.
Before getting into the detail of NFV, it’s important to first make a distinction between NFV and Software Defined Networking (SDN) as the two are different but complementary technologies. Both SDN and NFV rely on software that operates on commodity servers and switches, but both technologies operate at different levels of the network.
SDN allows administrators to manage network services through abstraction of lower-level functionality that adheres to three principles:
- Separation of control and forwarding functions
- Centralisation of control
- Ability to program the behaviour of the network using well-defined interfaces
In contrast NFV is focused on network appliances that perform path control, protocol manipulation, logging/monitor/capture, content analysis, security control and similar functions. These functions are in use today as routers, firewalls, IDS/IPS, proxy caching, WAN acceleration, data centre and WAN load balancers. The concept should allow one item of hardware to deliver all of the network related functions at a location – whilst still selecting the products you require, for example, have a network from one supplier but a firewall from another, functioning on the same hardware.
NFV can reduce operating and capital expenditures. NFV can lower an organisations reliance on proprietary hardware and enables virtualised network functionality on standard, high volume devices. Therefore, initial purchases for the hardware are reduced, as well as overall operating costs.
Currently, you may purchase a router, firewall, network optimisation device, local file and print etc, all working on separate hardware. With all of these functions running on one item of hardware (or two for resilience reasons) both hardware and support costs are reduced.
Benefits of NFV
- Flexibility – As NFV uses regular hardware, clients have the ability to choose and build the hardware in the most efficient way to suit their needs and requirements.
- Speed of Change – New network services or features are able to be deployed rapidly in an on-demand basis.
- Scaleability – Network resources can be provisioned and de-provisioned to respond to changing network conditions.
Does It Work?
There is nothing especially revolutionary about NFV, after all, we have been virtualising computing environments for many years. That said, in networking support and maintenance complexities can be challenge, as can the willingness of large network suppliers to change their approach. That said, NFV is proven and is being deployed, even by some of the largest suppliers.Marios Michael, Lead Consultant, StableLogic
For more information on NFV and for an assessment of it it is suitable for your organisation, please contact us.