Connectivity plays a huge role in the IT industry. We have seen a huge transformation in the way how we are now connected. These days, Millions of customers and businesses are connected to a network in one form or another. The systems and datacenters used to transport and house content are getting bigger and increasingly complex each passing day. It is becoming a daunting challenge for companies and service providers to store explosive amount of data. This desire to automate and manage the network, storage and computer resources is the key to the development of Network Function Virtualization (NFV) and Software-Defined Network (SDN).
What is Network Function Virtualization?
Network Function Virtualization (NFV) enables IT professionals to modernize their networks with modular software running on standard server platforms. With NFV, service providers have the flexibility to move network functions from the dedicated appliances to generic servers. It can streamline data collection, make it easier to analyze and improve business-making processes.
While talking about network operators, NFV has become the easiest way that helps in reducing the cost and accelerates service deployment by decoupling several functions like a firewall or encryption from dedicated hardware and moving them to virtual servers. Nowadays, network operators or service providers are spending fewer amounts on purchasing switches, storage and servers to run virtual machines that help perform network functions. It helps in reducing the cost operators are spending to buy new appliances.
Initially, NFV was utilized as a means to simplify the deployment and management of network and telecommunications service providers by providing virtual communications infrastructure. But, after all these years, it has been observed that NFV can boost the performance, reduce costs and consume less energy when compared to the traditional hardware-based architecture.
Architecture of Network Function Virtualization:
NFV has an open architecture with several flexible options for deploying an NFV solution in an organization. It majorly comprises three distinct layers:
- Network Functions Virtualization Infrastructure (NFVI): Network function virtualization infrastructure forms the foundation of the overall architecture. The hardware architecture hosts the virtual machines and the software infrastructure platform helps run network applications.
- Virtual Network Functions (VNFs): It utilizes the virtual machines offered by NFVI.
- Management, Automation and Network Orchestration (MANO): MANO interacts with both the NFVI and VNF blocks. MANO layer creates and delete resources and manages their allocation of the VNFs.
Benefits of Network Function Virtualization:
Flexibility: NFV is considered a swiftly deployed service with a flexible and adaptable network. It offers faster deployment, simple management, and control of networks.
Cost: NFV is a cost-effective solution for network operators or service providers. It helps in increasing operational efficiency and reduces CAPEX as well as OPEX.
Scalability: To quickly adapt users’ changing needs and provide enhanced services, network operators need to scale their network architecture across numerous servers. NFV helps to scale up and scaling out of capacity as per the operators’ and customers’ requirements.
Security: NFV allows network operators to provision and manages the network while also allowing their customers to run their own virtual space and firewall securely within the network.
Automated: NFV allows its operators the ability to substantiate their service anywhere in the world using virtualization. It helps service providers meeting customers’ requirements in a better manner. It also allows network operators to simplify network management through automation.
Rapid Development: NFV allows IT to create, manage and deploy networks faster at an incredibly low cost. It also reduces network elements as it can be installed as software.
Meeting the Challenges of Network Function Virtualization
NFV deployment has seen relatively slow progress which is due to lack of standards in NFV management, automation, and orchestration. Lack of mature standards in IT industry and blueprints for NFV implementations continue to hinder NFV deployments. The architecture of the NFV and the number of distinct components are making it challenging to design, build and support. The transition from a hardware-based architecture to network function virtualization is a time taking process.
The basic requirements to meet the transition process of NFV, architecture must provide:
- Separation of network configuration and management of network state
- Support for a modeling approach to network services
- Support for dynamic, real-time network and service changes in response to network events
In IT industry, Network Function Virtualization is helping network operators in transforming the traditional networks into software programmable domains which are much easier to operate and cost-effective when it comes to maintenance. Soon, we might witness that NFV is transforming the way operators design and implement networks and network services for better consumer experience.