Compute infrastructure technology is being revolutionized. Over the last decade, virtualization technology has changed the state of IT landscapes by enabling businesses to significantly reduce their costs, their turnaround times, their performance standards and IT Support quality, while simultaneously increasing overall systems flexibility and performance. Cloud is changing the economic and operational model of IT infrastructure and bringing the control of compute and storage closer to application developers and business owners. Likewise, the network is due for a revolution of its own. Carrier customers that want to stay competitive in today’s communications marketplace will need a solution that provides network and operational efficiencies while at the same time creating new revenue opportunities by taking advantage of SDN / NFV technologies.

Pulling Network Intelligence Away from the Hardware

You’ll hear the terms NFV and SDN interchangeably however they have separate definitions and application for virtualizing the network.  Software-Defined Networking (SDN) centralizes control and programmability of the network to separate control and data – whereas, Network Function Virtualization (NFV) allows you to relocate (virtualize) network functions from dedicated applications and hardware to generic servers and virtualized applications.

  1. NFV includes a set of technologies that have matured enough to potentially enable new solutions and will likely include the following:
    • Enabling high performance of network services through server virtualization.
    • Enabling required availability and scalability attributes for programing network traffic through SDN
    • Cloud management technologies to provision network services, virtual appliances and orchestrate connectivity to these services by managing the SDN/NFV layer, enabling functionality of these services by managing the service itself.
  1. SDN includes cloud and network orchestration to automate applications integrated to the OSS/BSS for simplified provisioning and control allowing for improvement of QoE due to the programmatic, predictable nature of SDN – it’s essentially, bandwidth-on-demand or “Liquid Bandwidth”.

SDN & NFV Can Work Well Together – But They Don’t Need To

Carriers can significantly improve network utilization by automating traffic path selection (SDN) and network service provisioning by layering NFVs on top of the automation of an SDN network. We can take that one step further by offering an ecosystem of NFV offerings for things like virtualized firewalls, virtualized load balancing and even virtualized end point management.

While it’s common for customer’s expectations to include both SDN/NFV capabilities, you may have SDN without the NFV layer while still having full dynamic control at your fingertips. For example with NFV offerings customers could go into your portal and order security services and gets immediate provisioning. Through direct integration, operators will be optimizing service orchestration and delivery while boosting performance levels to rival if not surpass that of what hardened appliances do today.

Carriers can recognize new revenue streams through new Product offers such as “Bandwidth on Demand”. This will be a transformation to virtualized service delivery which will enable cost-effective creation and delivery of new services as well as quick responses to end-customer service change requests. With integration to network provider’s OSS/BSS and a user friendly front-end portals (engineering portal or customer portal), CSPs can begin to develop new products and services more quickly and more efficiently.

The Economic Squabble of SDN & NFV

As a carrier customer, you have to make huge investments in network service appliances based on projected future service utilization estimates – and you need to justify the case before an investment is made or thrown away (for example, investment to increase service capacity requires significant capital and operational overhead for planning and implementation).

Generating new revenue streams require speed, flexibility, and scalability. Advanced SDN / NFV solutions allow clients to leverage virtualization technologies to inject service agility into their operations. Once the framework / platform is built, future services (IoT) can be layered on top.

Next up, we’ll discuss SDN Southbound Use Cases & SDN Northbound Use Cases.

Reach out to us to learn how we can assist in your planning and application development of SDN/NFV for your organization or are exploring various new use cases or SDN/NFV proof of concepts.

PS: If you want to take some time to really understand the evolution of network virtualization and SDN, I would highly suggest this introduction video by Eli the Computer Guy on “Software Defined Networking (SDN) Introduction“.

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