Enhancing Network Efficiency: NFV Helps Take the Load Off
When it comes to getting more out of the network, service providers can either add capacity or put existing assets to better use. Today we'll be talking about network functions virtualization – NFV — and how it helps service providers transform networks to be more flexible and agile. When implemented, NFV gives services providers the freedom to change how existing assets are used in response to evolving customer needs – all without leaving their management console.
As most know, NFV is a concept designed to take network functions that were formerly performed by dedicated hardware and run them virtually using more flexible, standards-based server equipment. When a function has been successfully virtualized, the hardware required to run it is no longer necessary and can be redeployed elsewhere in the network.
The benefit is a more open, flexible network whose resources can be dynamically allocated based on shifting service demands. With NVF, administrators can write sophisticated policy control rules for prioritizing high-value customer transactions. Better yet, they can quickly deploy innovative new services without having to spend months building an infrastructure to support them.
In many ways, NFV is the ultimate tool for maximizing network efficiency.
But for service providers with a long standing investments in both proprietary and standards-based hardware, the idea of virtualizing it all and moving it around sounds like an expensive, lengthy and disruptive project.
But what if NFV didn’t have to be an all or nothing endeavor? What if there was a migration path that better matched the methodologies already used by service providers to upgrade network capacity.
After all, when operators evolved for high speed communications, they simply switched their existing blades for next-gen optical packet options. Why can’t they take that same “card-based” approach to an NVF transformation project?
Speeding NFV Transformations
Today, leading technologists are working to load Layer 2 or Layer 3 switch functions directly onto a programmable NFV card which can be deployed in existing racks. This gives operators more flexibility and greater control over network functions in a single solution.
As the industry perfects the programmable NVF card, operators will be able to distribute core services and network management capabilities throughout the network. Simply loading firewall functions onto the cards will boost security – adding DPI capabilities will speed troubleshooting work. The possibilities will eventually become limitless.
Additionally, these NFV cards will help operators bring specialized services to closer to customers, which means that complex services no longer have to be carried across the entire backbone of the network. This move lets service providers reconfigure service delivery models and further maximize efficiency across the environment as a whole.
Programmability at the card level is a transformation that takes “future proofing” to a whole new level.
Using NFV in a service provider environments dramatically boosts the opportunity for doing more with less. Essentially, it creates a more fluid network with a set of small, highly-specialized mechanisms for making the whole thing to operate more efficiently. There's no need to dedicate entire servers to a specific task or to make one server handle every task. With NFV, the network can marshall resources wherever and whenever they are needed.
Over time, NFV streamlines expansion projects as the majority of the work can be accomplished by simply upgrading software or adding new blades. This reduces initial CAPEX expenditures and installation costs.
NFV is one way to get more out of a current network, but it's not the only strategy available to service providers today. In the next post, we’ll look at how service providers can reduce OPEX by simplifying the network.
What is your favorite strategy for maximizing network efficiency? Let us know in the space below.