The COVID-19 pandemic has caused major business disruptions across the globe. For IT organizations in particular, the effects of stay-at-home orders, travel restrictions and supply chain issues have contributed to long delays in receiving new networking gear. This, combined with the inability to actually set foot inside data centers to manage existing equipment, is forcing network architects to make adjustments.
Network functions virtualization (NFV) provides a solid workaround for these issues. It gives network architects the on-demand ability to virtually replicate infrastructure and deploy services across multiple metros and regions without worrying about supply chain or data center access issues. NFV provides the functionality of network hardware devices such as routers, firewalls and SD-WAN without having to deploy physical hardware. It’s been especially useful for customers who have been forced to quickly scale their remote access infrastructure in support of a growing remote workforce.
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Multi-layer, highly-available virtual device linking
Equinix is a strong proponent for the transformational advantages of NFV and we continue to make significant investments in this area. Case in point is device linking for virtual network services — a new feature accessible on Network Edge from Equinix. It allows our customers to virtually interconnect full stacks of IT networking hardware from a variety of network service vendors. Instead of physically racking and stacking devices inside a data center cabinet, these devices are deployed virtually on Platform Equinix via Network Edge and can be interconnected to the cloud or network service provider of choice via Equinix Cloud Exchange Fabric™ (ECX Fabric™).The feature allows for two or more network appliances from different NFV providers supported on Network Edge to be connected within a single metro or across multiple metro locations.
For example, a firewall can be deployed, along with a multicloud edge router, in minutes, without additional hardware.
Linking two or more VNFs can now be done with virtual cross-connects in a virtual deployment. These cross-connects enable Layer 2 adjacencies between VNFs that allow for more robust HA deployments using standard protocols. Removing all of that friction for customers is a big leap forward resulting in valuable time saved for enterprises that expect cloud-speed implementation and the ability to deploy network services where and when needed.
Device linking for virtual network services on Network Edge
Using Network Edge services, enterprises gain fast and direct access to the new device linking service and an array of leading NFV providers such as Cisco, Fortinet, Juniper Networks, Palo Alto Networks/CloudGenix, VMware VeloCloud and Versa Networks. Customers can quickly deploy a virtual point of presence within a Network Edge location instead of waiting for a physical cabinet to be procured, installed and configured.
Let’s say a business with a physical presence in an Equinix Silicon Valley International Business Exchange™ (IBX®) data center wants to establish a connection between Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure environments located in the United Kingdom. They want to avoid the CAPEX, long-term contracts and device installation and setup charges associated with creating another physical presence in the UK. Using Network Edge, the business can utilize its existing full stack of hardware devices located in Silicon Valley and create a virtual router in Equinix’s London IBX data center to connect Google and Azure. An ECX Fabric data connection is provisioned on Equinix’s network to connect back to the company’s Silicon Valley equipment. The entire solution for the new location can be deployed in minutes, including the circuit connecting the two geographies. Cloud-to-cloud routing can also be accomplished by using a virtual device deployed in an Equinix data center to provide a secure, direct connection between two cloud providers. The network edge virtualization approach eliminates latency issues associated with backhaul and removes the need and cost of multiple dedicated long-haul circuits.
Device linking for NFV services on Network Edge is particularly useful when network architects want to quickly extend the reach of a network or improve network performance and applications at the edge of widely distributed networks. In these instances, NFV is becoming a common method for deploying network services such as routers, firewalls, VPNs and SD-WAN. It allows multiple virtual network functions to be deployed on-demand and centrally managed to provide a faster and more cost-efficient means of delivering and managing network services compared to the traditional network hardware approach.
Circling back to where we are today with increasing remote workers, many organizations do not have the capacity in place to have 100% of their workforce connecting in remotely; they may only have capacity for 50%. Network Edge is enabling those customers to quickly scale their remote access infrastructure to deal with the increased demand.