NEW YORK -- Ethernet & SDN Expo -- In the race to virtualize network functions and centralize control of software-defined networks, there is good reason to consider the value of keeping some intelligence in the most distributed locations, namely the customer premises.
That's the thinking behind the distributed Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) philosophy of access equipment vendor RAD Data Communications Ltd. , which debuted the strategy this week at ESDN in a presentation by Yuri Gittik, chief strategy officer. In order to deliver service assurance for Ethernet and other IP-based services, network operators need to retain some functionality at the customer premises, Gittik says.
Distribution of virtualized functions was originally part of the NFV thinking, but it has been overshadowed, Gittik told Light Reading in an interview. One of the early objectives of NFV is to make sure there is flexibility in assigning virtual network functions to hardware -- and some of those functions are best assigned to customer premises-based gear.
RAD had actually begun developing its strategy ahead of the announcement a year ago of the NFV working group within ETISI, Gittik told us, but was spurred on by NFV's development.
"Distributed NFV is not our invention but it has our attentiveness," he said.
In today's environment, vendor-specific routers are limited in functionality and expensive to track, service, and maintain, notes Gittik. There is the temptation in the NFV evolution to virtualize the functions of CPE and pull it into the network as software, running on relatively dumb -- and therefore low-cost –- end points. RAD's problem with that thinking is that it ignores the value of what should located on-premises, as an extension of NFV.
For example, loopback testing, security functions such as firewalls, WAN optimization, and traffic conditioning could be virtualized, but centralizing them in the network can degrade their performance and may wind up costing service providers more money in networking costs. These functions need to remain at the customer site.
"Virtualized functions that sit in the network may be saving IT resources, but those go together with network resources," Gittik explained. Centralizing critical functions will require greater network resources with high reliability, which could actually eat up the IT savings.
What makes more sense, according to Gittik, is to virtualize functions but locate them where it's most important, based on feasibility, performance, cost, and policy. For example, in some cases, corporate information needs to be hosted at a specific site, or regulatory rules require information be located within geographic boundaries.
Gittik feels the beauty of NFV is that it will enable this distributed model and create new efficiencies in the process.
— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading