About half a year ago I wrote about the adoption of next-generation technologies in the virtual/cloud data center, and focused on Network Function Virtualization (NFV). As more and more network architects and professionals talk recently about NFV, I think it is a good time to revisit NFV and reflect on its concepts and the value it brings.
Today, operators are constantly seeking solutions and standards to simplify their network operation, increase its agility, reduce implementation time of new and advanced network functions, and reduce their TCO. That’s why they are pushing the telecommunication industry to standardize network equipment by using commercially-of-the-shelf (COTS) servers and running advanced network function software on them.
What is NFV all about?
NFV is about deploying typical network functions on top of industry-standard virtualized server infrastructures. Simply put, it means you can rapidly and easily deploy in your network any generic network elements such as routers, firewalls, load balancers and DoS mitigators/IPS, as well as service provider’s network-specific elements such as PCRF, Session Border Controller (SBC), DPI, Carrier Grade NAT (CGN), P-GW, S-GW, IMS Control and other Evolved Packet Core (EPC) components.
The best part? It eliminates the cost and complexity associated with deploying and administering a physical network function – reducing the number of “procure-configure-test-deploy” cycles.
If we take the case of NFV-based application delivery controllers (ADCs), such as Alteon VA for NFV (we’ll call it in short “Alteon NFV”), the ADC’s full layer 4-7 functionality will be simply packaged as a software entity called Virtual Network Function (VNF) which can be accessed and managed via standard interfaces. A Virtual Network Function Component (vNFC) is a software component hosted on a virtual machine, consisting of some or all of the VNF functionality. vNFCs are then grouped into packages, and so forth.
NFV is about performance and scale.
NFV is primarily targeted at carriers or service providers – but not only at them. Since NFV is built to scale it can bring great value to high-scale enterprises and online businesses that run high-capacity services – such as global eCommerce, eTravel, etc. Instead of costly ADC hardware platform, deployment, a great alternative is an NFV ADC that can cost-effectively allow reaching high-end processing capacity up to 80Gbps and even 160Gbps. Since it leverages the latest technologies, including vSwitch bypass, multiple vCPU support and DPDK (Inte’s Data Plane Development Kit), it delivers high-end performance with minimal latency. Amazing, no?
What are the business benefits of Alteon NFV?
- CAPEX/OPEX reduction – lowering space/power/cooling expenditures due to deploying a software-based function on an already-available compute infrastructure
- Improved resource utilization – a virtualized network allows service providers to dynamically allocate the available resources per the required functions
- Vendor agnostic – NFV allows the deployment of a variety of network services, regardless of the underlying technology or vendor, eliminating “vendor lock”
- Carrier grade features set – Alteon NFV enables advanced features required by carriers such as intelligent traffic steering and suppose multi-flow scenarios
- Higher agility – new services (e.g. mobile portals, monetization engines or any other value added services) can be provisioned and scaled in minutes, even seconds
- Ability to build NFV-based clouds or consume services using other public clouds – dynamically use network services and allocate the required resource on demand
Although it is in its early stage when it comes to customer adoption, it seems that NFV is definitely going to catch more momentum. Allowing to scale and achieve cost-effective resource utilization, early adopters customers are already trying and testing it. Personally, I am following closely this trend and actually starting to see more and more proof of concepts (PoC).