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So you want Network Virtualisation (NFV) for your Network - With or Without SDN?

Posted on 8 November, 2014 at 4:15

Just like the transition of Enterprise IT systems to Cloud Computing, so the trend towards Network Virtualisation and programmable networks is heating up and unstoppable.


Industry Momentum Building Fast


Judging by the attendee numbers at this year’s SDN & OpenFlow World Congress, in Düsseldorf last month, the industry momentum is building up fast. Apart from doubling the prior year’s attendee numbers (and that in a part of Europe that certainly does not feature among its major Tourist destinations), this third world congress on Software Defined Networks (SDN) featured a large vendor exhibition, including most of the established major networking, applications and software vendors, as well as many start-ups in these areas. It also featured an extensive display of Network Function Virtualisation (NFV) Proof of Concept (POC) demos.


Network Function Virtualisation was a major theme in this multi-streamed SDN World Congress. It may be fair to say that the industry momentum towards NFV is even stronger than that for SDN. Judging for instance by the over 220 member companies of the ETSI NFV Industry Specification Group (ISG) Initiative with well over 30 operator members represented. (Compared to the about 150 members of the Open Networking Foundation – ONF).


The applications of NFV are certainly much easier understood and the value of cloud computing with its scalability and bursting capability and clear economic advantages are well known and attractive to operators. Many major operators are involved in the program of ETSI NFV approved public POC demos that cover a wide range of use cases for telecom operators.


SDN as Enabler for NFV in Networks


NFV does not require SDN, but the ETSI NFV group has from the start made a case that NFV and SDN are perfect complements. At the SDN World Congress in Düsseldorf the outgoing ETSI NFV chair, Prodip Sen, presented an interesting analysis that clearly showed that for telecom networks which are by nature geographically distributed and need to provide built-in reliability and diversity, SDN is an essential complement to NFV. Of course SDN is also a key technology to implement service chaining or Virtual Network Function (VNF) Forwarding Graphs (FG), which is a vital enabler for the richness of personalized virtualized function offerings that service providers may want to offer in order to tap into the rich incremental revenue potential opened up by the NFV technology.


Key Focus Areas: Openness, Performance, Real-time Orchestration


The key focus points of industry discussion around NFV are the need for truly open NFV implementations, to verify and ensure performance for NFV network applications, and to move from monolithic traditional OSS architectures to more cloud oriented real-time NFV Orchestration platforms, in order to fulfill the vision for NFV and to reap its full potential.


The Importance of Openness


The recently founded Open Platform for NFV (OPNFV) initiative, led by Margaret Chiosi, which is focused on realizing this vision for open NFV, was well represented and sharing its industry vision towards open NFV. NTT DoCoMo made a significant announcement about successful multi-vendor NFV testing for virtualized mobile core, where various multi-vendor combinations of the NFV architecture building blocks were successfully tested. This is an important step towards achieving open NFV. NTT DoCoMo also announced its intention to move towards deployment of NFV technology in the coming year.


Cultural Change and Skills Training Needs


So the momentum towards Network Virtualisation and Programmable Networks, ie NFV and SDN, is building. Some operators have already started these deployments, eg the European operator Colt. They note the need for cultural change in their organisations and the breaking down of silos in order to see the successful introduction of these new technologies. And related to this is the looming need for skills training and certification in SDN and NFV, as was highlighted by Dan Pitt, the Executive Director of the Open Networking Foundation (ONF), who is in the process of developing an SDN certification program to launch in 2015.

Categories: NFV, SDN, Telecom Market