Network Functions Virtualization is Changing How Services are Delivered
Dec 19, 2012
As Service Providers are faced with increased competition from Over the Top Providers they are seeking new markets to enter. However, as they look to create and launch new services they must grapple with the growing number and complexity of hardware devices in their networks. This creates challenges due to the time it takes to certify equipment and with staffing and training of skilled operators for many devices. It also creates cost pressure with the need for more space and power at a time when these resources are becoming ever more expensive. Making upfront capital outlays for equipment in anticipation of revenue that ramps up over time can stress budgets. As a result Service Providers are looking to change how network services are deployed and some are finding Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) as the answer to their problems.
Defining Network Functions Virtualization Services Network Functions Virtualization is transforming how network operators architect networks by enabling the consolidation of network services onto industry standard servers, which can be located in Data Centers, on Network Nodes or at the user premises. NFV involves delivering network functions as software that can run as virtualized instances and that can be deployed at locations in the network as required, without the need to install equipment for each new service. Network Functions Virtualization is applicable to any network function in both mobile and fixed networks. Network Functions Virtualization is complementary to Software Defined Networking (SDN) but not dependant on it. Virtual appliances might be configured using SDN capabilities and they might be connected via overlay network tunnels in clusters based on an application or based on the needs of an organization.
The Types of Services That Can Be Virtualized There is almost no limit to the network functions that can be virtualized. Service Providers are already making use of virtual switching to connect physical ports to virtual ports on virtual servers and using virtual routers and virtualized IPSEC and SSL VPN gateways to terminate customer traffic cloud data centers. There is a desire to use virtualized network appliances at the customer premises as well and functions contained in home or small office routers and set top boxes can be implemented to create virtualized home and small office appliances. These services presently require multiple dedicated hardware appliances on customer premises to deliver services such as firewalling, web security, IPS/IDS, WAN acceleration and optimization, as well as routing functions. There are many other network services that could be virtualized such as traffic analysis tools and network monitoring tools, as well as AAA servers, and application optimization services such as load balancers and application accelerators.
The Benefits of Network Functions Virtualization There are many benefits to virtualizing network functions, one of the top being a reduction in the numbers of devices and a corresponding reduction in equipment costs as well as reduced power and space costs as one server can host several virtualized network appliances. Virtualization also speeds time to market by minimizing the number of devices that the operator needs to certify and train their staff on. Services can be rapidly scaled up as required as it is only necessary to install additional virtual appliances on existing server equipment. Service velocity and cost to deploy is improved by provisioning remotely without site visits being required to install new hardware. With multi-tenancy capabilities enabled through software, network operators can provide tailored services and connectivity for multiple customers and applications on the same hardware with secure separation of administrative domains. It should be possible to run production and test facilities on the same infrastructure which will provide a more efficient test and integration environment, further reducing development costs and time to market. Also since hardware development isn’t required vendors can more rapidly develop virtualized appliances and give service providers a wider choice of service options in a shorter development cycle.
Juniper Networks® Delivers Network Functions Virtualization Juniper Networks has released a number of products in the form of virtual appliances. For example Junos Content Encore is a content caching and content delivery solution designed to deliver rich media web and video content more efficiently. With it service providers can both optimize and monetize OTT content, video and other next generation web content. With transparent caching capabilities, Junos Content Encore can intelligently cache and deliver popular content from the network edge and off-load WAN links, lowering network costs, and improving quality of experience for end-users while enabling new revenue generating services that meet changing consumer demand.
JunosV™ App Engine is an innovative virtualization platform that allows users to run network and traffic control services on Juniper systems. Service providers can use it to accelerate time to market for new services, by rapidly deploying and managing a variety of Juniper and 3rd party applications, without porting to Junos®. The network architecture is now redefined to a single Junos OS device with a virtual plane, where multiple physical appliances collapse into a virtual machine cluster, reducing costs and simplifying device management and scaling of network applications and multiple operating systems run their value-added network applications, without any porting allowing faster time to market.