Network functions virtualization is basically a concept of replacing dedicated network appliances, like routers and firewalls altogether with software that runs on commercial off-the-shelf servers. The primary aim of network functions virtualization is to transmogrify the way communication service providers frame networks and deliver top-notch network services. Network operations transformed as network function software is dynamically is epitomized in several locations in the network as required, without the need for installation of new equipment.
What is the History of Network Functions Virtualization?
The concept of NFV originated from service providers who wanted to add new network functions or applications much easier and faster. The drawbacks of hardware-based appliances enabled them to apply standard IT virtualization technologies to their networks. In order to accelerate progress towards this common objective, the companies who had formed ETSI devoted resources to a new group, the ISG NFV in 2013.
What are the NFV Platform Requirements?
The Networks Function Virtualization is designed to augment or replace the traditional, highly reliable network appliances. Therefore, NFV must deliver the following:
- Superior performance to 100Gbps and up
- Highly reliable with uptime of 99.99%
- Scalability to millions of users
- Low-latency delivery of real-time applications
- Capability to integrate with the traditional network architectures and connect with the existing operational and billing systems.
The primary blocks of the Network Functions Virtualization comprise of:
- Infrastructure comprising of hardware resources and corresponding virtualization
- Management and Orchestration, consisting of orchestrator, virtualized network functions manager (VNFM) and Virtualized Infrastructure Manager (VIM)
- Virtualized network function and corresponding element management systems (EMS).
- Operations Support Systems and Business Support Systems (OSS/BSS)
A virtualized network function (VNF) is basically a network function capable of running on an NFV infrastructure (NFVI) and being orchestrated by an NFV Orchestrator (NFVO) and VNF manager. The combination of NFVO, VIM and VNF are usually referred to as MANO. NFVO is solely responsible for the initialization and setting up of new network services, network service lifecycle management, global resource management, validation and authorization of requests for the NFVI. On the other hand, the VNF managers are responsible for lifecycle management of VNF instances and the overall co-ordination between NFVI and the EMSs.
What are the NFV Use Cases?
Network functions virtualization is applicable across a wide range of network functions, comprising of both fixed and mobile networks. Some of the leading NFV applications include:
- Service Delivery
- Network Slicing
- Video Servers
- Network Monitoring
- Content Delivery Networks
- Evolved Packet Core
- Software-Defined Branch and SD-WAN
- Session Border Control (SBC)
- Virtual Customer Premises Equipment (vCPE)
- Security functions like firewall, NAT, and prevention systems, etc.
Benefits of Network Functions Virtualization
Network functions virtualization virtualizes the network services via software to allow operators to:
- Reduce CapEx by reducing the need to purchase purpose-built hardware and using pay-as-you-grow models to remove wasteful over-provisioning.
- Reduce OpEx by reducing the space, power and cooling requirements of equipment and easing out the rollout and management of network services.
- Provide agility and flexibility to instantly scale services up or down to meet the dynamic demands; services can be delivered via software on any of the industry-standard server software.
- Access to a broad independent software community, including open source.
- Rapid deployment time.
NFV is a new way networking hardware and software operates and interacts. Along with the SDN, NFV helps create an environment that is rich in both automation and programmability capabilities. NFV also provides its carriers and services providers an excellent opportunity to execute a much more customer-centric network infrastructure that can adapt dynamically to various customer needs and requirements.
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