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NFV (Network functions virtualization)

Defining SDN & NFV

It's been nearly three years since software-defined networking (SDN) was first referenced at Light Reading and nearly 15 months since network functions virtualization (NFV) arrived on the scene. (See Big Switch Raises $13.75M and Tier 1 Carriers Tackle Telco SDN.)

The pace of development in both SDN and NFV has been astonishing when compared with the usual pace of the telecom sector so, not surprisingly, everyone wants a piece of the action and to be associated with the hottest technology trends in town.

That also means it can be easy to lose sight of what these developments are about, especially as the terms get added to just about every public statement made in the communications market. ("We have SDN-enabled our parking lot…" and "Our hot beverage facilities have been greatly enhanced by NFV" are just two examples I am waiting eagerly to read.)

So here are two quick definitions that, from now on, we will reference when writing about these critical topics. The SDN definition comes from the very able and experienced team at Heavy Reading (thanks folks) and the NFV definition from the first white paper published by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) Industry Specifications Group (ISG) that is at the heart of NFV developments.

SDN (software-defined networking)
SDN is an architectural concept that encompasses the programmability of multiple network layers -- including management, network services, control, forwarding and transport planes -- to optimize the use of network resources, promote interoperability across suppliers and network layers, increase network agility, unleash service innovation, accelerate service time-to-market, extract business intelligence and ultimately enable dynamic, service-driven virtual networks. – Heavy Reading

NFV (network functions virtualization)
NFV aims to... leverage 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... [NFV] is applicable to any data plane packet processing and control plane function in fixed and mobile network infrastructures. – NFV ISG (ETSI)

You can be sure we will be linking back to these definitions regularly in 2014 as the noise around SDN and NFV gets even louder.

— Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

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sam masud 1/21/2014 | 8:29:25 AM
Re: Defining SDN I could not agree with you more. Not sure why HR felt the need to come up with a definition. Nick's definition adequately covers it--and it's pretty much the way most of the industry views SDN. Leave well alone...that's good advice in this instance.
TomNolle 1/20/2014 | 9:09:56 AM
Re: Evolution, Evolution I do to, Ray, and I think that's one of the values of something like you're doing here.  We need to be aware of how all our technology revolutions are defined--how they were first viewed and how that view evolves.  Otherwise we may be seeing the realization of a concept that's changed so much from its inception that it can't address the same issues any more!
[email protected] 1/20/2014 | 7:07:30 AM
Re: Evolution, Evolution Thanks Tom - very useful additions. For sure there are different approaches to achieve the same generaln goal, depending on the network and business case.

I think it is useful to regularly reflect on what SDN and NFV are in relation to the industry and it's healthy to see that there are differing viewpoints (see other messages on this thread).
t.bogataj 1/20/2014 | 3:34:11 AM
Re: Defining SDN I second Nick's definition. It is correct and technically exact.

Ray's (i.e. HR's) "definition" is jabbering about assumed benefits and says nothing about technology. Tom's comment is on "how", not on "what".

T.
desiEngineer 1/19/2014 | 11:12:20 PM
Re: Defining SDN How can a few months outstrip a definition?  A "table" is well-defined even though there are so many more variants of table than the caveman days.  A definition that doesn't last more than a few months only means that we don't know what we are are talking about yet.

Tom's examples only serve to emphasize that we know what we want to have SDN cover, but we haven't yet found a good over-arching definition for it.

Nick's definition sounds more like a property than a definition.

-desi
dwx 1/19/2014 | 8:06:13 PM
Re: Defining SDN I think that's way too simplistic of a definition.  We've had separated control/forwarding elements for decades now, certainly wouldn't call it "SDN." 

Tom has nailed a real-world definition.  I would also include application driven networking as part of the definition as well.   Doesn't necessarily need a separate control and forwarding plane.  
TomNolle 1/18/2014 | 7:57:48 AM
Evolution, Evolution I think that for both SDN and NFV, market evolution has already outrun the traditional definitions.  In the case of SDN, we see three distinct models of SDN presented in the market, one truly centralizing the contorl plane, one building an overlay on current connectivity, and one adding software control to current behavior.  In NFV we see operators focusing more on operations savings and "service velocity" benefits than on capex reduction, which necessitates an examination of how NFV and legacy network elements coexist, cooperate to build new services, and are managed.  It may be that the development of these two definitions will be a guidepost in tracking what the market really thinks about both technologies.
wildcard22 1/17/2014 | 5:49:08 PM
Defining SDN

SDN is the separation of the control plane from the forwarding plane..

Everything else is a benefit that derives from that separation 

- Nick McKeown, OFC 2013 Plenary

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