Realizing the true potential of NFV

How network function virtualization is making the network a true utility

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In my blog article covering SD-WAN, I wrote about how software-defined wide area networking was helping customers take back control of their networks by changing the economics of the WAN and introducing policy-based management capabilities. Enterprises are now taking the next step toward a more flexible network utility by exploring the use of Network Function Virtualization (NFV). NFV, the deployment of software-based network services on standard x86 server platforms, has been a pursuit of network service providers for several years now. NFV has helped network service providers become more nimble and deliver services faster, at a lower cost. It was only a matter of time before the enterprise sought the agility and cost-efficiencies of NFV for itself.

With an NFV strategy, enterprises can deploy common x86 virtualization hardware that is ready to run a host of different Virtual Network Functions (VNFs)—software appliances deployed on NFV infrastructure. Enterprises now have the flexibility to deploy hardware one time and provision VNFs such as routers, firewalls, load-balancers and others on demand. This brings a new paradigm of real-time provisioning of VNFs to meet the ever-changing demands of a digital world.

The NFV platform reference architecture has been spearheaded by the European Telecommunication Standards Institute (ETSI). The ETSI NFV reference architecture diagram below helps guide NFV users to the proper functional blocks for deploying their NFV stack. The NFV Infrastructure (NFVI) is the hardware and virtualization components of the NFVI stack.

Intel is optimizing its hardware offerings to improve VNF performance while VMware and various OpenStack distributors provide the virtualization capabilities and management for the NFV stack. The Management and Orchestration (MANO) module is populated by the who’s who in network orchestration, such as Cisco, Ciena/Blue Planet, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) and Juniper, as well as open source challengers like Cloudify and Open Source MANO. For the VNFs, the market is seeing the traditional network vendors begin to offer software appliance versions of their most popular hardware appliances. Today, the enterprise has the choice to build their own best of breed NFV platform or lean on a fully integrated provider like Cisco or HPE.

ETSI NFV Reference Architecture

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NFV @Equinix

Equinix sees a lot of potential value from NFV. As a provider of interconnection services within our International Business Exchange™ (IBX®) data centers, we are exploring how NFV might fuel new service offerings and faster delivery of current offerings. We also see customers beginning to explore using NFV as part of their Equinix Performance Hub deployments at the digital edge —what was once a fully populated rack of network equipment could now be just a few servers running VNFs. Equinix also envisions customers using NFV as part of their Equinix Cloud Exchange deployments to enable the network as a utility as enterprises grow their use of cloud services.

Just last month, Cisco introduced its Secure Agile Exchange (SAE) Architecture at Cisco Live in Berlin. Cisco SAE enables enterprises to quickly and securely interconnect users to applications by virtualizing the network edge and extending it to colocation data centers, the crossroads of internet traffic. Cisco envisions customers using NFV as part of their Performance Hub deployments to enable the network utility as enterprises grow their use of cloud services via the Equinix Cloud Exchange. Equinix is excited to see more development towards NFV architectures deployed at Equinix.

The on-demand and flexible scaling of network functions has arrived, thanks to NFV, and the utility delivered by the cloud isn’t reserved just for compute and storage anymore. In addition, NFV maps perfectly into an Interconnection Oriented Architecture™ (IOA™) strategy, a proven and repeatable architectural framework that directly and securely connects people, locations, clouds and data. By running NFV on Platform Equinix™, enterprises can combine the advantages of NFV with the power of an IOA strategy to be applied to any application and workload, out at the edge of the enterprise.

Interested in learning more about how your enterprise can deploy NFV at Equinix? Contact Equinix Global Sales.

 

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