It has become abundantly clear during the past week at Mobile World Congress that the topic of network functions virtualization (NFV) is going to be a key focus for network operators and their partners and suppliers in the coming years. (See MWC: The Network Blinked.)
So it's important at this point to pin down what NFV is/means if it's going to be important.
Why the term NFV? Because it is the term used by the network operator members of the Industry Specifications Group formed in late 2012 under the auspices of European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI). When the group was announced it had already put together a white paper on NFV, which included the following definition:
Network Functions Virtualisation aims to transform the way that network operators architect networks by evolving standard IT virtualisation technology to consolidate many network equipment types onto industry standard high volume servers, switches and storage, which could be located in Datacentres, Network Nodes and in the end user premises... It involves the implementation of network functions in software that can run on a range of industry standard server hardware, and that can be moved to, or instantiated in, various locations in the network as required, without the need for installation of new equipment.
The white paper usefully explains the relationship with software-defined networking (SDN): "Network Functions Virtualisation aligns closely with the SDN objectives to use commodity servers and switches," but importantly notes that NFV "goals can be achieved using non-SDN mechanisms."
The white paper is available right here.
The group met in January this year and is meeting again in April in California to coincide with the Open Networking Summit and an Open Networking Foundation meeting (so that the NFV and SDN communities can find common ground while drinking the Napa Valley's finest -- and why not!).
The January meeting appears to have generated multiple working groups and expert groups -- check out this blog, Report from the ETSI NFV Meeting, to find out more.
What's encouraging currently is that the operator members of the NFV Industry Specifications Group are very keen to figure out whether this is a red herring or the start of a new era in wide area network topography. No doubt they will be helped and hindered along the way by "messaging" from the industry.
What the team at Light Reading wants to do is help keep the debate focused by identifying productive technology and strategic advances and flag up those that don't.
Despite our best efforts and intentions, I have no doubt that, at times, we'll get it wrong. And that's why the message boards here on Light Reading and this LinkedIn group are important -- informed input (including constructive criticism) is needed and encouraged.
So please weigh in.
In the meantime, here are some recent NFV-related articles:
The 'gleaming city on a hill,' Steve Saunders calls it. But who is going to take us from today's NFV componentry to the grand future of a self-driving network? Here's a look at the vendors hoping to make it happen.
Understanding the full experience of women in technology requires starting at the collegiate level (or sooner) and studying the technologies women are involved with, company cultures they're part of and personal experiences of individuals.
During this WiC radio show, we will talk with Nicole Engelbert, the director of Research & Analysis for Ovum Technology and a 23-year telecom industry veteran, about her experiences and perspectives on women in tech. Engelbert covers infrastructure, applications and industries for Ovum, but she is also involved in the research firm's higher education team and has helped colleges and universities globally leverage technology as a strategy for improving recruitment, retention and graduation performance.
She will share her unique insight into the collegiate level, where women pursuing engineering and STEM-related degrees is dwindling. Engelbert will also reveal new, original Ovum research on the topics of artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, security and augmented reality, as well as discuss what each of those technologies might mean for women in our field. As always, we'll also leave plenty of time to answer all your questions live on the air and chat board.