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NFV—microservers solve macro-problems



by: Vinay Saxena, Chief Architect, NFV

Much has been made of the fact that network functions virtualization (NFV) is allowing communications service providers (CSPs) to leverage technology developments in the IT industry to create more flexible, cost-effective network services. When you transform network functions from specialized, vertically integrated components to software modules running on commodity servers, CSP networks begin to have a lot in common with cloud computing and the hyperscale server farms of providers like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon, and, for that matter, HP.


But the analogy only goes so far. There are similarities, but there are also significant differences.


The scale of NFV carrier networks, which may serve 100 million subscribers or more, is certainly similar to the scale of all but the largest hyperscale IT service providers. It’s estimated that Google and Microsoft each operate more than 1 million servers, and many smaller operators have tens to hundreds of thousands of servers. These huge service providers have learned how to expand by “scaling out”—replicating applications, services and management functions uniformly across thousands of servers. In many of these environments, the roadblocks to further growth are simply the space needed to house more servers, the energy to power them, and the cost to acquire them.


HP Moonshot software-defined microservers take converged infrastructure to the next level for hyperscale IT environments. Their system-on-a-chip (SoC) architecture uses ultra-low-energy processors like those in mobile devices. In the right applications, Moonshot systems can deliver the same computing power in 80% less space, using 89% less energy and at 77% less cost. That kind of performance opens up the next phase of Internet expansion—and it enables carrier networks built using the NFV model.


But carrier networks, even when transformed by NFV, are not web server farms. The additional latency and non-deterministic performance introduced by the hypervisors that run virtual servers just won’t fly in many network applications. That’s why we’re bypassing the hypervisor and incorporating specialized functions like digital signal and network processing right into the SoCs in some Moonshot systems.


Moonshot microservers will be the ideal platform for many NFV network applications, but may not be the best choice for others. Since a good workman knows his tools and chooses the one best suited to each job, read about microservers in the Networks Functions Virtualization edition of our Industry Edge online magazine. You’ll find more details on microserver technology and an application guide to help you understand where it is most applicable. And while you’re at it, you can access our web site to learn more about HP OpenNFV and HP Converged Infrastructure.


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