What is NFV?

Written by
doug.mccluskey

Often, I’ll get asked about certain technologies and what they are. Whether it be by colleagues, co-workers, or sometimes just friends and family.

  • What’s Wifi?
  • What’s the big deal with DOCSIS 3.1?
  • What’s 5G and when will it be available?
  • What’s a Service Group?

Having worked in the industry for close to 20 yrs, given a few minutes, I can usually provide a satisfactory explanation to most questions. Depending on who I’m talking to I try and provide just the right depth of detail and technical jargon so they come away with a basic grasp of the concept in question.

But recently, there is one that seems to stump me… What is NFV?

Ahh… well… it’s like… you know when…. but…. Ok…Mmmmmm….

For some reason I tend to start mumbling with a confused look on my face and the person across from me is wondering if I’m having a seizure.

You know that feeling when you have a grasp conceptually of something, but it’s tough to put into words? Like why does a frisbee fly? Well, it’s physics, air pressure, spinning mass, force... Geez, you know!

So, after much reading and Googling (is that an accepted verb) I’ve got a handle on it, but it’s still tough to boil it down.

First off, NFV stand for ‘Network Function Virtualization’. In the world of Communication Service Providers, it’s obvious that the services are delivered via large connected networks. An extension of those networks is the HFC and ultimately the customer premise.

CSPs often select hardware manufacturers to deploy specific platforms and services. NFV will allow CSPs and IT to replace dedicated network hardware such as router and switches with software running on commercial off the shelf servers.

The aim of NFV is to transform the way communication service providers (CSPs) architect networks and deliver network services. Network operations are transformed as network function software is dynamically instantiated in various locations in the network as needed, without requiring the installation of new equipment.

- ADVA Optical Networks

Carrier Grade

Equipment in the telecommunications industry must conform to strict standards, adhere to protocols and quality to be designated as Carrier Grade. This would involve long product cycles on proprietary or specific hardware which is expensive.

NFV deployed on general purpose standardized hardware is expected to reduce capital and operational expenditures, and almost eliminate long introduction times.

 

Benefits

The following benefits, as outlined by SDXCentral are obvious music to the hears of operators:

Reduce CapEx

Reducing the need to purchase purpose-built hardware and supporting pay-as-you-grow models to eliminate wasteful over-provisioning.

Reduce OpEX

Reducing space, power and cooling requirements of equipment and simplifying the roll out and management of network services.

Accelerate Time-to-Market

Reducing the time to deploy new networking services to support changing business requirements, seize new market opportunities and improve return on investment of new services. Also lowers the risks associated with rolling out new services, allowing providers to easily trial and evolve services to determine what best meets the needs of customers.

Deliver Agility and Flexibility

quickly scale up or down services to address changing demands; support innovation by enabling services to be delivered via software on any industry-standard server hardware.

 

Collaboration

In simple terms, the industry is collaborating. Obviously, we could travel down a long rabbit hole and dive deep into more and specific technical terms and jargon, but I’d like to return to my opening. When someone asks me what is NFV?

To quote the OPNFV website:

Open Platform for NFV (OPNFV) is a collaborative project under the Linux Foundation that is transforming global networks through open source Network Function Virtualization (NVV).

- OPNFV

So, is it possible to sum this up succinctly? The industry and it’s many software and hardware players are working together to develop standards of interoperability. Developing advanced networks and techniques to deliver more services with agility, flexibility, and cost effectiveness. And with that, I hope you have a decent grasp of the NFV concept.

But of course, depending on who I’m talking to, this might only be the start of the conversation.

By Doug McCluskey, PTech, Network & Broadband Specialist
Missing Link Technologies Ltd.

NFV, IT infrastructure, CSP

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