Network functions virtualization, or NFV, replaces dedicated network devices with software running on general-purpose CPUs or virtual machines, operating on standard servers.
In the era of NFV, adding a firewall, load-balancer, or router no longer means deploying proprietary, vendor-specific appliances. This next phase in intelligent networking draws from the successful experience in IT
virtualization, as well as from technological advancements in server hardware, to bring service providers lucrative benefits:
• Faster time to market and time to revenue for business and consumer services with rapid deployment, upgrade and turnoff of network functionalities and value-added service capabilities
• Optimal placement of new network functionalities to wherever they are most effective or least expensive
• Flexible relocation of network functionalities in order to suit rapidly changing needs
• Lower expenses with commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) computational elements
• Improved economics and simplified operations by combining multiple network functionalities on a single computational platform
A strong indication of the interest NFV is arousing among service providers is the organized effort, initiated by leading carriers to provide a standardized framework for the new architecture and related technologies. This effort is being carried by the NFV Industry Specification Group (ISG) within ETSI, the European Telecommunications Standards Institute. In October 2013, the NFV ISG published its first five documents, proposing a framework to support interoperable NFV solutions. Among the topics addressed in these first specifications are NFV terminology, requirements, architectural framework, and use cases.
The rate and extent of NFV rollouts are difficult to assess at this early stage; however, 2014 is expected to abound with proof-of-concept and pilot trials, with deployments commencing in 2015 and accelerating in 2016. Analyst firm Doyle Research estimates that the market for NFV solutions will reach $5 billion by 2018, covering associated software, servers, and storage. Analyst Lee Doyle referred to the figure as “best-case scenario” that depends on a range of factors, such as the various use cases and their effect on both network infrastructure and deployment time frames.
RAD addresses the D-NFV approach with a novel solution that integrates an x86 server for VNF hosting with a L2/L3 NID, in a customer-located device that is controlled by the service provider. Such a NID combines all the “smart” demarcation functionality of a state-of-the-art NID (including traffic management, full end-to-end service control and monitoring, service turn-up, and diagnostic tools) with a built-in server card platform as the standard NFVI component.