How To Converse in Cloud

How to Converse in Cloud: Deploying NFV vs. Cloud-Native Functions

Different approaches to network functions virtualization at the edge

Tim Amans

An explosion of mobile applications, accentuated by 5G, is increasing the demand for virtual network services at the edge, closer to users, systems, applications, data and clouds. Increasing numbers of remote workers are also reinforcing moving IT to the edge to reduce network latency when exchanging intelligent application workloads.

Critical to this expansion of distributed IT is the fast deployment and orchestration of virtual networks, and their ease of implementation and use. Depending on the application scenario, leveraging Network functions virtualization (NFV) as a service versus cloud-native network functions (CNF) could be the right solution, and in some cases, harnessing both is the answer.

The growing need for network virtualization

Hardware-based connectivity and networking capabilities can fall short when adapting to more fluid environments of context-sensitive applications such as the Internet of Things (IoT). In these cases, the volume of application and data workloads often spikes to levels that can saturate a legacy network infrastructure. Network virtualization is increasingly preferred as it saves on CAPEX and delivers agile software controls that today’s modern digital infrastructure requires.

Some options for efficiently and cost-effectively deploying and consuming  virtual network capabilities include an NFV service, such as Network Edge from Equinix, and cloud-native functions. NFV and CNF both lend themselves to different use cases, but in the end, users may prefer an integrated hybrid approach, such as the one available on Platform Equinix® using Network Edge and Equinix Fabric™ (formerly known as Equinix Cloud Exchange Fabric®).

Depending on the application scenario, leveraging NFV as a service versus CNF could be the right solution, and in some cases, harnessing both is the answer.

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Deploying NFV and CNF service models

NFV and CNF are similar in that they both virtualize network functions to build an agile IT infrastructure. Both use an underlying physical server to readily expand and adapt whenever and wherever the user needs to deploy network capabilities. The difference mainly lies in how those network functions are abstracted from the underlying physical server infrastructure:

  • NFV uses a hypervisor to provide a single layer of abstraction that enables networking and network security functions to run as dedicated appliances (e.g., routers, firewalls, etc.) in the form of virtual machines, which can quickly be deployed on generic hardware.
  • CNF reduces each discrete network and network security function into a microservice, packaged in its own container, and deployed on generic hardware resources on a cloud platform. Much like applications run as a cloud service, so do CNF capabilities, leveraging open source orchestration technology, such as Kubernetes, across various microservices, containers and clouds.

Virtual network functions (VNF) devices are widely adopted and have a proven track record; their performance is predictable. Whereas cloud-native functions, which are container based and were originally designed to run applications rather than network functions, are growing in popularity as microservices gain currency in modern applications development.

Cloud-native and virtualized network functions are significantly different in their approach to providing flexibility and agility. They abstract from hardware in distinct ways that result in varying levels of complexity. The following is a high-level comparison of the two service models:

Network Edge delivers fast and easy deployment of NFV services and CNF integration

Equinix helps enterprises respond quickly to dynamic changes in local markets, bypassing public internet connections rife with congestion, high-latency and unpredictable performance. Network Edge is a flexible service where customers can deploy and run VNF devices such as SD-WAN, routers and firewalls, as well as services such as virtual private networks (VPNs), from leading NFV vendors in minutes, without adding new hardware. In addition, Network Edge REST APIs allow you to interact with Platform Equinix® to programmatically create a virtual device and add services and connections around the world in minutes, simplifying the orchestration of multiple VNF devices from different vendors.

VNF devices are widely adopted and have a proven track record; their performance is predictable.

Leveraging Network Edge and Equinix Fabric, IT organizations can quickly provision software-defined interconnection to multiple cloud platforms through the Equinix Fabric Portal or APIs. This enables a rapid response to business demands and expansion at the edge, including device linking (service chaining) of virtual network services from different  vendors within or between metros using Network Edge services. Equinix Fabric also allows IT organizations to create hybrid infrastructures from a choice of providers by interconnecting Network Edge NFV and CNF services. Network Edge NFV and CNF services can also be deployed on Platform Equinix using Equinix Metal, an interconnected, automated bare metal-as-a-service.

Network Edge brings the power of NFV and cloud computing capabilities closer to users at the edge by bridging multiple NFV capabilities and clouds using modern, network virtualization.
Learn more about Network Edge or try its NFV services for free.

…IT organizations can quickly provision software-defined interconnection to multiple cloud platforms through the Equinix Fabric Portal or APIs.