NFV software is used to deploy Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) to create cloud-based applications with a combination of virtualization software and industry-standard hardware.
Global operators are increasingly looking to use NFV software and industry-standard hardware to deploy enterprise applications rather than use integrated, proprietary hardware and software systems. Enterprise applications that can be deployed with NFV software include virtual firewalls, IP-VPNs, load balancing, application acceleration, Wide Area Network (WAN) connectivity and optimization services, and network services using virtual customer premises equipment (CPE).
OPNFV platform overview. Source: OPNFV
Provisioning VNFs with Software
An operator can use the NFV software model to provision virtual network functions (VNFs) for the customer without the need for specific hardware. This enables more service agility because if the customer’s needs change, the operator only has to change the VNFs in use and not the whole system’s hardware.
Using NFV software has major benefits. These include reduced capital expenditure (capex) by reducing the amount of required hardware, reduced operating expense (opex) through increasing the speed and automation services are provisioned with, and increased management efficiencies of using only software. For example, software updates can be issued over the network rather than requiring on-site visits or truck rolls.
Software Initiatives and Standards
NFV software applies to a group of technologies being deployed by networking vendors and service providers. Several groups have developed standards or architectural models for deployment. For example, the European Telecommunications Standards institute’s Industry Specification Group for NFV (ETSI ISG NFV). The ETSI-defined framework governs the management and orchestration of all resources in the cloud data center, including compute, networking, storage, and virtual machine (VM) resources.
OPNFV is a group effort under the Linux Foundation using open-source methods to, among other things, make VNFs cloud native. In the Gambia release of OPNFV, there is an emphasis on projects supporting containers, where code is put into smaller pieces to allow for an application to be distributed across the cloud. Corporate members include IBM, Microsoft, and Oracle.
Many service providers, equipment vendors, and software vendors have built upon the ETSI NFV framework to deliver specific NFV software that can handle the orchestration, provisioning, and management VNFs to customers using the cloud. In 2019, many technology providers are offering NFV installations, including Cisco, Interdynamix, and AT&T. Cisco and AT&T are also members of the Linux Foundation.
For the customer, a Cloud NFV approach has many benefits, including being able to purchase NFV services through a vendor’s website and manage the service without complicated proprietary hardware configurations.
Updated March 2019