NFV Still Matters: Here's Why

An immediate benefit to enterprises is the simplification of IT infrastructure.

The ability to deploy services as software downloads to the CPE enables service providers to roll out new services across a customer’s entire organization without the need to dispatch engineers and install new equipment. Service providers can offer “try before you buy” promotions and short-term leases for special events. The model can also be extended to allow field sales executives to take an order at the customer site and have it turned up automatically via orchestration.

NFV and SDN together can help service providers to transition from legacy solutions to new VNF-based business service models. These new models incorporate simplified connectivity networks and virtual appliances hosted at the customer premises or in the service provider’s network. Cloud service providers offering network storage and compute facilities in their data centers can also explore new business models. They can supply end customers with CPE-based VNF hosts. They can improve the end-user quality of service and quality of experience by mobilizing the location of virtual functions on-demand and installing VNFs in an elastic fashion to the customer premise.

The enterprise benefit

An immediate benefit to enterprises is the simplification of IT infrastructure. This is accomplished through the adoption of a flexible and programmable L2/L3 forwarding device complemented by virtualization of appliances, such as routers, deep packet inspection, firewall, WAN optimization, intrusion prevention systems and network performance monitoring, with models supporting VNFs hosted locally or in a private cloud.

Many enterprises are considering NFV within their own and often distributed network infrastructure to unburden network operations and focus on immediate business activities. Additionally, enterprises can rapidly test and turn up new services using NFV and create architectural blueprints in software containers.

As NFV matures, appliances relevant to specific industrial verticals will emerge in VNFs targeted; for example, at mobility of the end-user and telemetry collection in the Internet of Things.

The combination of SDN/NFV with SD-WAN, edge computing and 5G has become a critical enabler of IoT. For example, 5G ensures that all IoT devices can be connected without a reliance on wires.

Edge computing has proven to meet the needs of applications for reliable, secure, real-time high performance, yet it also introduces a new level of complexity with the amount of computing, storage allocation and open-source third-party applications. This is where SDN and NFV come into the picture, simplifying the network management by supporting an open environment that allows for tools and software across many hardware platforms to connect to IoT more effectively and ensure a fast, flexible, and secure network.

Additionally, 5G needs NFV. The service components of the 5G infrastructure (CU, RU, DU) have been virtualized into a CRAN (Cloud RAN) architecture. In order to dynamically support changing load conditions in a 5G network and changing demands regarding latency (network delay), NFV will be required. The ability to “spin up” additional instances of CUs or DUs in order to support additional or temporary loads, and the ability to move them between locations (closer to RU to support lower latencies) are critical to allow the next-generation network to process and transport 5G traffic

In fact, research suggests that the digital transformation of networks through NFV and 5G could unlock $2 trillion in value for the telecom industry, consumers, and society by 2025.

Clearly, NFV still matters. The following six use cases demonstrate how NFV is being used today to address a range of challenges—as well as provide enhanced solutions to these and other networking hurdles to enhance services.

Six use cases

Microsegmentation. The ability to run many small (virtual) instances of a function (routing, encryption, etc.) for each customer allows for faster deployment (a small router setup rather than adding more rules to one, monolithic router), scalability (as each router is its own separate process – as there is no single “scaling point”), and flexibility (instances or customers can use different versions or vendors for their instance).


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