Network Functions Virtualization (NFV)

Mobile networks are facing challenges on multiple fronts. Traditional sources of revenue, voice and text messaging, are losing ground to services being provided OTT on their data channels. At the same time, the network infrastructure needed to handle all that data traffic needs to grow to meet the expanding capacity requirements. As a result, infrastructure costs are growing faster than subscriber revenue growth. Network operators are realizing that their networks need to become more flexible and agile so they can introduce new services more quickly in order to increase revenue.

NFV introduces virtualization technologies into the core network to create a more intelligent, more agile service infrastructure.

The main goals of NFV are to:

  • reduce equipment costs and power consumption
  • improve time to market of new services and features
  • enable the availability of multiple network functions on a single network device
  • encourage a more dynamic network through the development and use of software-only solutions

All of these benefits can be derived from the use of commercial, off-the-shelf hardware that can be developed for multiple telecommunication services that currently use proprietary hardware.

SDN is a concept related to NFV, but they refer to different domains. SDN is focused on the separation of the network control layer from its forwarding layer, while NFV is focused on exporting network functions to ‘virtual environments’. This enables the migration from proprietary equipment to a standard hardware device with the functions specified by software located in a ‘cloud based’ infrastructure.

NFV is taking the SDN concept and adapting it to benefit the telecommunications application infrastructure. In the SDN architecture, northbound APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) are used to facilitate innovation and enable efficient orchestration. Southbound APIs are used to communicate between the SDN Controller and the switches and routers of the network.