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Leveraging NFV for Agile, Cost Effective Application Delivery


NFV adoption is increasing

Telecommunication vendors accelerate the software releases of NFV solutions, along with numerous POCs operated by leading vendors and service providers.


Service providers operate in a highly competitive market, where their revenues are decreasing. They look to reduce costs, avoid vendor lock, and increase service agility. Service providers need to respond to frequent market requirements and accelerate the deployment of new network services to support their revenue generation plans. In addition, service provider test cycles are quite lengthy lasting multiple months. Service providers are reporting that virtualizing functions and eliminating the hardware can reduce test cycles by up to 40% by not having to ship, accept, and install lab and field test hardware.


Why virtualize Application Delivery Controllers (ADC)?

A common focus for NFV is the application delivery controller (ADC), which has evolved from the traditional load balancer. ADC has become an essential part of every application: it performs server load balancing to ensure scalability and high availability of application servers and services; it has clear added value for improving application responsiveness and performance – therefore the ADC has become a critical network element to guarantee application SLA.


The ADC is required to deliver application switching functions such as high throughput, low latency and high reliability – therefore the ADC function is typically based on a purpose-built switching appliance. The NFV approach clearly offers a chance to avoid the complexity of physical network element deployment and reduce the costs involved in purpose built appliances. But moving ADC to NFV poses some challenges that need to be addressed when integrating ADC with the application infrastructure.


What are ADC main challenges when virtualizing network functions?

The main challenge when virtualizing ADC is management and orchestration. Standardization organizations (ETSI) and equipment vendors have initially focused on moving appliance-based solutions to software based. However, the great value of NFV (besides moving to standardized server infrastructure – which is a great CAPEX and OPEX reduction by itself) is in the ability to define workloads and policies per application. Workloads can only be defined using orchestration and automation.


ETSI has defined a working group to address and promote NFV MANO (management and orchestration). It is the ETSI-defined framework for the management and orchestration of all resources in the virtualized data center. This includes computing, networking, storage, and virtual machine (VM) resources. The main focus of NFV MANO is to allow flexible on-boarding and sidestep the chaos that can be associated with rapid spin up of network components.


What is the biggest NFV benefit?

Cost reduction, avoidance of vendor lock and agility. By moving networking infrastructure to standard server infrastructure, service providers do not need to purchase 3 appliances of each network function (2 appliances for HA design, 3rd appliance for on-site maintenance): they now need to purchase 2 servers for HA design, where the 3rd server is common to all other network functions. In addition, by moving to NFV, service providers open the opportunity of on-demand services that spin up and down in real time and can be changed quickly by the operator as the market changes. This is a hidden but yet tremendous benefit that may increase operator competency and dramatically improve time to market of new services

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