5 Trends That Are Driving Virtual Network Services

How virtual network functions as-a-service is accelerating the creation of digital infrastructure

Kevin Skahill

Digital infrastructure has become increasingly global, interconnected and agile, and today many enterprises are wondering how to stay ahead of these developments. If you knew in advance the direction your digital infrastructure was taking, especially the deployment of your hybrid multicloud architectures, you could plan and manage your WAN and cloud networking investments more effectively.

Network virtualization services using virtual network functions (VNF) and software-defined networking (SDN) are enabling businesses to quickly and easily extend their reach to connect to employees, customers, business partners, cloud infrastructure and cloud service providers (CSPs). With VNF and SDN enablement, the network is no longer the bottleneck for timely and flexible service delivery. Given the expansion of virtualizing network services, we thought it important to share our thoughts on future trends.

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IT infrastructure has become more complex than ever, especially when it comes to networking. That’s why many enterprises are turning to network functions virtualization (NFV). This paper provides insight on the state of NFV adoption and offers a specific approach to optimizing the benefits of the technology.

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Trend #1: Businesses need to extend their reach, faster

It’s very difficult for companies to get physical networking equipment and personnel into geographies and markets to expand connectivity to new customers and business partners in a timely, secure and reliable manner. This is especially the case with the global COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting supply chain challenges. This is why VNF services are growing so rapidly across multiple industries.

For example, a global digital payments firm trying to expand into a new regional market can accelerate the timetable in which they can begin working with local retailers and partners thanks to VNF services such as SD-WAN. If they didn’t have this capability, they couldn’t get the fast and agile connectivity to new markets they require, and they wouldn’t be able to expand their business in a growing number of countries as opportunities present themselves.

Digital businesses are leveraging VNF devices to solve the problem of regional access because they can remotely deploy a VNF device quickly, without having to undertake all that entails a physical deployment. VNF services also give smaller companies a big boost because they allow them to cost-effectively access rich geos and markets they couldn’t otherwise afford to enter.

Trend #2: Digitalization is accelerating and networks need to adapt

Increasing digitalization means that IT infrastructure and network connections are needed in places where demand is rapidly growing, such as with edge computing where volumes of data are being created and processed, buoyed by an onslaught of IoT devices collecting data and application needs for real time analytics. Also, as a result of the pandemic lock-downs, a larger, more distributed remote workforce has emerged, which requires network access to be spun up quickly at the edge, outside of corporate and branch offices. For example, during the pandemic more companies are deploying online services – telemedicine, unified communications and collaboration (UCC) and digital payments, requiring greater network bandwidth capacity and distributed network access points.

IT organizations are increasingly turning to SD-WAN, virtual private network (VPNs), firewall, and cloud routing virtual devices that can be spun up much quicker – in minutes –  to interconnect with employees, customers and partner ecosystems over high-speed, low-latency virtual connections.

Trend #3: Accelerating cloud access is a logical next step for SD-WAN

As more users and devices at the edge need to connect to cloud applications and edge computing environments, backhauling data traffic to a centralized data center no longer makes sense, as it congests corporate networks, adds latency and creates a poor user experience. For increasingly latency-sensitive applications, it’s a non-starter. SD-WANs enable direct internet access without having to backhaul traffic through a centralized data center. This reduces the load on corporate networks and lowers costs by enabling much of the traffic to be routed through local internet connections vs. more expensive MPLS connections.

The next logical step is to accelerate access to CSPs such as AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud, taking advantage of direct and secure interconnectivity via AWS Direct Connect, Azure ExpressRoute and Google Cloud Interconnect, as well as privately connect to SaaS providers. Strategically provisioned SD-WAN gateways can help assure the fastest most reliable connections for users and devices to cloud resources.

Trend #4: Hybrid multicloud is driving on-demand, direct connectivity

Increased digitalization means that enterprises need to increase their hybrid multicloud connectivity. According to the fourth annual Global Interconnection Index (GXI), privately interconnecting multiple cloud and IT service providers across distributed locations and cloud regions represents the fastest growing use case of interconnection bandwidth, growing to 16% of ecosystem demand.

Organizations are increasingly utilizing more CSPs (AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, Oracle Cloud, VMware Velocloud, IBM Cloud, Alibaba Cloud, etc.) for different applications and workloads. Many organizations still have private clouds (i.e., financials, data-sensitive workloads, etc.) in addition to public cloud environments. Others are looking at the opportunity to optimize for performance, cost or latency, especially for edge computing applications with bare metal deployments. Some applications may be distributed across clouds for performance reasons or are replicated across clouds for business continuity/disaster recovery. With so many different workloads in so many clouds, we need high performance, reliable, private connections that interconnect all enterprise applications and data. This is the cloud-to-cloud routing requirement that enables organizations to deploy successful hybrid multicloud architectures. Using an SD-WAN router for cloud-to-cloud routing via high performance, dedicated virtual connections simultaneously optimizes the path for users and devices to access all these resources.

Trend #5: The expanding edge is putting more pressure on securing the network perimeter

With increasing numbers of users working remotely and more and more applications moving to the cloud, traffic patterns have changed. Thanks to SD-WAN, most traffic goes directly to the cloud rather than tromboning back to a central data center, which can introduce security risks at the branch. Secure web gateways (SWGs), deployed in many markets, provide a secure solution to ensure that traffic is inspected and the risk mitigated by various security services. Firms will increasingly want to optimize private connections between SD-WAN gateways and these SWG services, as well as their identity-protection providers.

This highlights an opportunity to optimize for Secure Access Service Edge (SASE)  ̶  a combination of SD-WAN, secure web gateways and zero trust. It’s no doubt SASE is getting such great attention because it can protect the huge amounts of remote worker and edge traffic (e.g., IoT, 5G) that go to the cloud. Security organizations can peel off the traffic via a SD-WAN to a secure web gateway before it gets to the cloud.

Modernizing and optimizing network infrastructure

Network Edge services and Equinix Fabric are helping enterprises speed hybrid multicloud architectures and digital infrastructure deployments today. Network Edge is in 11 metros around the world with greater global expansion planned in 2021. Equinix Fabric is available in 49 metros around the world and is continuously expanding across Equinix’s growing global platform.

To learn more about how your company can deploy virtual network services with the end goal of quickly leveraging high-performance, secure digital infrastructure, check out the network functions virtualization ebook.

You may also want to read:

Gartner – Market Trends—SD-WAN and NFV for Enterprise Network Services


Related blogs:

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

Making It Connect: Connecting Multicloud Architectures Using Network Virtualization

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