NFV (Network functions virtualization)

SDN & NFV: Advancing the Network to 2020

SDN and NFV are two of the most significant technologies affecting telecom operators around the world. They are both being deployed in order to create efficiencies that will reduce costs, as well as create new services to drive revenue growth. By 2020, we expect that both will have driven major transformations in how telecom operators build and manage their networks.

SDN is seen as a critical tool in making networks more responsive to the needs of applications. Using an SDN controller, operators will be able to define and execute policies that will enable more efficient and effective use of networking resources. It has already begun being deployed in data centers, and a similar approach, SD-WAN is being proposed to bring similar levels of abstraction and automation to the wide-area network.

NFV entails virtualizing network functions so they can be run on lower-cost hardware platforms and services can be created in a more automated manner. Virtualized network functions (VNFs) will run as virtual machines on COTS platforms and be managed by orchestration tools that will execute service creation. Many VNFs will ultimately be delivered from the cloud, which allows for the pooling and sharing of resources to maximize utilization. Microservices and containers will help operators create new types of services by mixing and matching components in new ways.

Bringing technologies and platforms that were initially designed for use in IT environments has led to some concern around SDN and NFV. Operators want to ensure that they are able to achieve similar performance in the virtual world as they were able to in the physical world of dedicated platforms. Some, however, are willing to accept slight performance hits due to the significant benefits that automation provides, including faster cycle times and fewer errors. Both will enhance the customer experience.

Security is also a major concern, with high-profile hacking cases highlighting the risks inherent in the virtual world. Deploying these new technologies without disrupting existing operations will be a significant challenge, as well. Operators will therefore introduce them for specific services at the point of refresh, rather than rip and replace.

The next few years will see major change across many aspects of telecom operators' businesses. They are looking for ways to operate with greater agility and cost effectiveness, as well as bring innovative products to markets more quickly. Embracing SDN and NFV will be an important part of operators reaching these goals.

This blog is sponsored by Huawei.

— Roz Roseboro, Senior Analyst, Heavy Reading

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