Overview on Network Function Virtualization

The idea of Network Function Virtualization (NFV) is to alter the way network operators architect networks by developing standard IT virtualization technology in order to merge several network equipment types on to high-volume servers and storage, which could be based in the data center or end-customer premises. At the same time, NFV replaces custom-designed network equipment that command the installed base of networks.

Hardware flexibility

Since NFV uses regular Commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware, the network operators are empowered to select and construct the hardware in an efficient manner in order to meet their requirements.

The hardware provided by traditional network vendors has restricted options for memory, computing, storage, networking capacities, and amendment leading to hardware upgrade that costs time and money. With NFV, the providers choose between different vendors and have the flexibility to choose the hardware capacities that have best network architecture and planning.

Leveraging existing tools

Since NFV uses the same infrastructure as data centers, it can leverage management tools which are used in the data centers. The use of centralized pane of glass for virtual servers gives the benefit of quick adaption for new deployments, without the requisite for developing new tools.

Rapid development and vendor independence

NFV deploys a vendor’s solution without huge costs incurred for replacing vendor’s deployment. Operators can choose vendors functions and select them based on certain features, cost of licensing software, and roadmaps, etc.

At the same time, new features and solutions can be incorporated immediately, without waiting for the present vendor to put them into use. Rapid implementation is assisted by NFV’s support for implementing open source tools and software.

Authentication of new solutions

Service providers frequently validate new solutions, services, and functions by testing them in test setups, before introducing them in production networks. Generally, they have to copy a subset of their production environment for in-house testing, which increases their operational budget. However, with NFV, building and managing test setups are economical. The NFV oriented test-setups can be dynamic and scaled in order to meet the requirements.

Amorphous service offering

An NFV oriented deployment is not restricted to one-time design and deployment. It can get accustomed to market specific needs and offer a target set of services to match the changing needs. Well, with a unique combination of elasticity and agility, it is possible to achieve workload mobility. For instance, providers can expand the new virtual network function (VNFs) in order to cater to the network’s requirements for services and capacities as they alter during peak and off-peak usage.

Operational efficacy and dexterity

NFV is automated, hence it can augment the benefits that can be gained through the use of Machine to Machine (M2M) tools. For example, it is possible for an automation tool monitoring device to gauge the need for memory in network function. However, with NFV the tool can request for allocation of that memory.

NFV Architecture

NFV offers an open architecture with flexible options for implementing an NFV solution. The NFV architecture comprises three disparate layers:

  • Network functions virtualization infrastructure (NFVi) –The hardware and infrastructure software platform are needed to run network applications.
  • Virtual Network functions: Software applications that offer certain network functions, such as security, routing, security, mobile core, video, etc.
  • Management, automation and network orchestration (MANO): The agenda for management and orchestration of NFVI and VNFs.

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