What Is Network Scalability? The Equinix Guide

Network Functions Virtualization Infrastructure and Scalability On-Demand

John Hanahan
What Is Network Scalability? The Equinix Guide

The cloud computing model has radically changed the method and the mindset for IT resource deployment. Businesses who adopt the cloud strategy are no longer concerned with protracted implementation cycles for servers or storage, nor the CapEx and OpEx typically associated with on-premises IT resources. With NFV, networks can start to follow the same implementation model as servers and storage.

Network Functions Virtualization

The concept of on-demand availability is now transforming the way that network services such as routers, firewalls, SD-WAN and load balancers are being deployed. With NFV—decoupling network functions from purpose-built hardware devices allowing the network function to run on standardized, high-performance server hardware—businesses can now deploy an ever-growing suite of network services on-demand and quickly scale as needed.

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Cloud service providers via Equinix Cloud Exchange Fabric running on Platform Equinix.

NFV addresses the biggest inhibitor of rapid implementation and scalability associated with hardware network devices—the procurement and provisioning processes. Procurement cycles can take days to weeks, depending on the type and number of devices required. Provisioning, especially at remote locations that require on-site technical skills further delays deployment. With physical network devices, rapid scalability is out of the question. With NFV, network functions are quickly deployed and scaled out to meet changing network demands.

NFV also brings greater flexibility to the deployment of network functions needed short-term, such as application development and testing or data transfers during a migration project. In these instances, procurement and provisioning of network devices delays testing or data migration. With NFV, network functions can be quickly deployed, and just as easily be redeployed for other uses when the project finishes.

Network functions virtualization provides an alternative method to deliver functionality where and when required, rapidly and economically, without the need for purpose-built hardware or substantial CapEx.

NFV enables rapid deployment

A virtual network function can easily be selected, configured and connected via Equinix’s Network Edge. The deployment process is straightforward:

  1. Select the virtual network function you wish to deploy.
  2. Specify the global location where you want to deploy the function.
  3. Provide an existing license or choose the subscription option for licensing.
  4. Deploy your virtual function.
  5. Connect your virtual function to cloud and network destinations.

With this method, there’s no need for on-site technical hardware expertise, as there would be with a physical network device. Deployment speed and location flexibility are inherent benefits of the NFV approach.

NFV delivers scalability on-demand

Network functions virtualization facilitates network scalability with the ease and speed of deploying network functions where and when needed. This ranges from the deployment of a single virtual router to provide interconnectivity between two different cloud environments to the deployment of SD-WAN end-points to connect branch locations to the cloud. Businesses accustomed to the rapid scalability of cloud resources can further improve the efficiencies of IT resource deployment with network functions virtualization.

Three examples illustrate the ease of an NFV approach to deploying and scaling network resources.

  • Explosive growth in a retail chain opening new stores requires dozens of virtual firewalls to be deployed in colocation data centers throughout the country. These protect corporate applications running on distributed cloud environments from intrusion via the public cloud.
  • To provide carrier-grade infrastructure and throughput, virtual SD-WANs are deployed in colocation facilities to aggregate traffic from dozens of branch offices and securely connect to applications in the cloud.
  • Branch virtualization: deploying virtualized network functions such as routers, VPN terminators, load balancers, and session border controllers remotely to proactively accommodate traffic growth and diversity of traffic types, as well as meet reliability and performance requirements. Virtualization reduces costs by avoiding expensive truck rolls to enable services at branches and centrally managing network functions across all branches.

In each example, additional network functions can be rapidly deployed to accommodate unexpected demand or respond to situations where the protracted deployment of physical network devices are unacceptable.

NFV capabilities enhance management and performance

Network functions virtualization not only enables rapid deployment and scalability of network functions but when deployed within the infrastructure of interconnectivity providers like Equinix, they deliver additional value to simplify management and enhance network performance. Considering the growing complexity of managing widely distributed, highly interconnected IT resources, a network functions virtualization approach benefits businesses by:

  • Eliminating vendor lock-in, offering the best-in-class network functions to match network devices you’ve already deployed on-premises or in branch locations.
  • Providing a single, centralized method of quickly deploying network functions and maintaining an up-to-date inventory and status of all network functions provisioned.
  • Giving you the ability to deploy network functions in new or smaller markets closer to end-users to quickly establish a presence and expand geographic footprint.
  • Providing pre-integrated, low-latency connectivity and close proximity to cloud providers, networks and digital supply chains.
  • Offering options to connect corporate data centers, cloud service providers and branch offices via private links that ensure throughput and reduce security threats.

Businesses that have already benefited from the on-demand capabilities enabled by the cloud will enjoy similar benefits in the network functions virtualization approach to deploying and managing virtual routers, firewalls, SD-WAN, load balancers and a rapidly growing suite of network functions.

NFV scalability enabled by interconnectivity

Network functions virtualization allows businesses to scale network functions from the core to the edge without the need for CapEx or additional physical hardware or equipment. NFV deployment can augment existing physical network devices to quickly scale to meet changing demands. Network functions deployed via Equinix’s Network Edge bring the additional benefit of on-demand availability of pre-configured connections to more than 2,500 cloud service providers via Equinix Cloud Exchange Fabric running on Platform Equinix.

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John Hanahan Sr Director, Product Management at Equinix
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