The future potential for NFV is boundless, however, today there are a few use cases that are popular and getting some traction in the market, namely within the Virtualized RAN, mobile core and edge. There are a number of proof of concepts (POCs) that ETSI is hosting and helping promote. Many of these deployments are covered in our common use cases described below.
Virtualized Network Functions
Cloud service providers are looking for a cost-effective way to sell customers on-demand instances of virtual routing, virtual private network (VPN), layer 4-7 acceleration and security services to help them connect, scale and protect their cloud-based applications. By virtualizing these functions, which would normally run on proprietary hardware, and delivering them via a virtual machine or set of virtual machines that run on commodity off the shelf (COTS) servers in the cloud, providers can reduce their capital expenditures and improve their overall flexibility.
These virtualized network functions enable providers to deploy instances as needed, by the hour or locale, to meet the changing needs of customers. To date, early POCs have demonstrated the successful separation of the management, control and data planes in support of these more flexible deployment models. Providers have been able to chain a series of L4-7 appliances together to deliver these services, on-demand, while ensuring the performance requirements can be met with commodity hardware to validate the effectiveness and value of NFV.
Virtualized/Cloud Radio Access Network
Mobile service providers need to improve their ability to roll out more radio access networks (RANs), while controlling costs. To be competitive and grow their customer-base, they need to enhance their service with new offerings and continue to expand their coverage by providing mobile service in hard to reach areas. Moving functions, which would normally run on proprietary hardware located in a base station, onto a virtual machine or set of virtual machines that could be deployed locally, on COTS servers, upstream, on an aggregation point, or in the cloud enables the provider to reduce costs and gain economies of scale.
Using COTS compute platforms, even for base station functionality (e.g. eNodeB), gives the provider a lot more flexibility; it makes it cost-effective to deploy functionality where it’s needed and ensure service redundancy that can improve overall availability and uptime. Virtualizing the RAN, combined with virtualizing the mobile core supports self-contained deployments that can be used to provide services in rural areas to increase customer satisfaction and expanding service revenue opportunities. Early POCs have been able to successfully separate the management, control and data planes, with low chatter between the control and data plane that improves latency and overall performance, to support and validate the flexible deployment models and efficiencies gained by using NFV.