Network functions virtualization (NFV) has matured as a technology to the point that it is now being embraced operationally by communications service providers (CSPs) around the world.
Virtualization allows multiple functions to run on a standard server, lowering both capital costs and operational expenses due in part to more efficient use of resources. Notably, routing is one of the functions that has been virtualized and deployed by CSPs such as AT&T, LG U+ and Liberty Global.
While virtualized routers can perform in any role that a physical router performs, they are particularly well-suited for lower bandwidth applications and highly distributed network architectures.
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Two of the most common virtual routing use cases today are as a virtual Provider Edge (vPE), to support business services like IP/MPLS VPNs, and as a virtual Route Reflection (vRR). They are also gaining traction as the routing component of virtual Customer Premise Equipment (vCPE) solutions, where they are often used in conjunction with the other virtualized network functions (VNFs) such as firewall and NAT. Virtual routers are also seeing deployment as Virtual Broadband Network Gateways (vBNGs)/Virtual L2TP network servers (vLNS) in support of residential and wholesale broadband services.
Having routing functionality available as software separate from hardware means users can trial it in lab environments using their existing compute infrastructure, or even in a public cloud. This approach provides a way to evaluate and validate use cases more quickly and cost-effectively than similar hardware-based activities.
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