What is NFV?

Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) refers to the idea of replacing dedicated network appliances (such as routers and firewalls) with software running on standard servers. A group of large international service providers initially conceived the NFV concept. Together, they’ve created a collaborative ennvironment for additional work and development under the auspices of ETSI (European Telecommunications Standards Institute. This ETSI group is also referred to as NFV, and Overture is an active participant.

This original group of service providers published what many consider a definitive  NFV white paper outlining the challenges they face:

  • An increasing variety of proprietary hardware appliances like routers, firewalls and switches
  • Space and power to accommodate these appliances
  • Capital investment challenges
  • Short lifespan
  • A long procure-design-integrate-deploy lifecycle

The service providers proposed a solution to these problems: replace the currently deployed appliances with software running on commercial, off the shelf (COTS) hardware to create an ecosystem of software and scalable cloud-type technologies. The expectation was that this approach would provide a number of benefits:

  • Lower hardware costs by replacing dedicated appliances with shared servers
  • Reduce operational costs with fewer appliances to deploy and maintain
  • Support on-demand pay-as-you go deployment models
  • Speed revenue-generating services to market
  • Enable innovation by making it easier to develop network functions

How NFV works with Carrier Ethernet solutions

Carrier Ethernet is the clear choice for the edge of the modern data network. With Carrier Ethernet 2.0, service providers can defined advanced services, deploy them across multiple networks and assure their performance meets required SLAs. The CE 2.0 standard for services provides the perfect open and interoperable foundation for NFV.

Openness is one of the main drivers for NFV. A successful ecosystem requires that the new Virtualized Network Functions (VNFs) be open and interoperable. Doing so will allow the extension and combination of VNFs to create new functions. The desire for an open ecosystem for NFV based on cloud technologies is the basis for the CloudNFV project. Overture is excited to be a  founding member of this group and our Ensemble Open Service Architecture™ is a key component in this solution.

Moving from dedicated appliances to software VNFs will require new architectures that provide for elasticity of demand and combination of functions, which is also known as chaining. Furthermore, to achieve the benefits of usage-based billing, the VNFs must be implemented to take advantage of the underlying scalable resources.

How Ensemble OSA Delivers NFV

Overture’s Ensemble OSA™ is the industry’s first open architecture for software-defined services at the metro edge. Designed to support high-performance business services, mobile backhaul and cloud connectivity, Ensemble Open Service Architecture optimizes service creation, activation, and assurance by bringing the benefits of the cloud to the metro edge. With this new open architecture that embraces the principles of software defined networking (SDN) and NFV, service providers are able to maximize operational efficiencies and introduce new revenue-generating services faster and easier than ever before.

In particular, the Ensemble OSA™ architecture leverages several aspects of VNFs to benefit service providers in the creation of advanced services:

VNF Orchestration

Orchestration is the provisioning, control and connection of VNFs with other network resources. This includes mapping the specifics of the service to requirements of the VNF(s) and to the availability of the underlying network resources. In a datacenter, these resources include compute, connect and storage resources that have been virtualized using virtual machines (VMs) and open virtual switches (OVSs). However, Overture’s Ensemble OSA™ extends beyond the data center and out to the metro edge. Its orchestration includes CE 2.0 access gear at the customer and aggregation sites, as well as the connecting links.

Catalog of Valuable VNFs from an Open Ecosystem of Partners

Overture’s Ensemble OSA™ includes an ecosystem of partners that are providing virtualized functions. These verified VNFs have the necessary implementation to support on-demand and elastic services while working under the Ensemble OSA™ orchestration and with other connect, compute and store resources.

How NFV complements SDN

NFV is separate from, but closely related to software defined networking (SDN). While NFV is concerned with converting appliances to software, SDN is being used to deconstruct today’s network elements into control and data functions, and then further separating them by the addition of protocols or APIs. This separation allows the creation of centralized control and a programmable network.

Programmability itself has tremendous value in terms of supporting the desire of network operators to increase the automation of tasks. It can also be combined with the inherent programmability of VNFs to support even more interesting services and new uses for underlying resources.