Home References What is NFV and Why is it Significant to the Networking Industry?

The telecom industry is growing fast and so is technology. According to a prediction by the Telecommunications Industry Association, the wireless telecommunications network will grow to $323 billion between 2014 to 2017, which is a 25% rise over the period of 2010 to 2013.

A lot of this rise can be attributed to NFV when telecom operators across the world are adopting the technology to gain competitive advantage. For example, China Telecom Beijing Research Institute and Hewlett Packard Enterprise recently made announcements for creation of a joint NFV lab together. The intention is to migrate from old infrastructure system to upgraded sophisticated system.

Global Uptake of NFV

NFV came into being around 2007, however, only a few companies were investing in its research and development at that time. NFV became much more formalized between 2008 to 2014 and today’s global telecommunications industry is at the juncture of seeing a wide-scale deployment of NFV. In 2013, Linux Foundation launched a project for open source framework called Project Open Day Light which was intended to accelerate NFV adoption.

The global NFV and SDN market was around $2 billion in 2015. It is predicted that by the year 2020, it will increase at a compounded annual growth rate of 86% and reach around $45 billion. Speaking about regions, North America is expected to lead the deployment in the coming years. The Asia Pacific region, including Japan, is currently the fastest growing economy but it is expected to be replaced by Europe soon. By the year 2020, the investments in orchestration platforms will reach over $1.6 billion and will account for about 10% of the total NFV spending.

The high growth can be contributed to the increasing popularity of cloud services, difference in traffic patterns, growing complexity of networks, rising demand for mobility and server virtualization.

Key Benefits-

NFV is a boon to the network operators because of the benefits on the cost of purchasing and maintaining proprietary hardware. Yes, it is true that established network operators already have invested in proprietary hardware before, however, any new technology requires additional investment, which increased the CAPEX cost to a great extent. Moreover, in case of a network failure, recovery needs physical intervention which leads to extended downtime. This affects customer service and customer satisfaction.

Therefore, NFV has been accepted wholeheartedly by network operators across the world. So, what are the benefits:

Economical for customers: The reduction of cost achieved through implementation of NFV not only benefits the network operator, but also the customers. With the implementation of NFV, customers are charged only for the service provided i.e. time of use, bandwidth, number of users etc. They do not have to pay for the expenditure of the whole set up.

Coherence in operation: Through implementation of NFV, the network monitors and repairs VNF instances directly in the software without any manual intervention. NFV will make remotely setting up a server on cloud much easier than it is today.

Reduction of manual intervention: Any downtime or interruption at the customer location is repaired directly by NFV without any manual intervention. This has enabled network operators to maintain lesser workforce, thus, enabling them to save on manpower cost.

Effective use of resources: NFV enables the network to use all kinds of unutilized resources. This is done remotely through software without any manual intervention.

Reduction in operational costs: NFV entails a network operator to manage the network efficiently and this helps network operators to use the spare time in network maintenance, experimentation, modification of the network, etc. The final result is a massive reduction of operational cost.

Flexible and agile: NFV enables network operators to be flexible and agile. With the saved cost and saved downtime, network operators can not only invest in new technology, they can also use the saved time in technological innovations.


Key Challenges-

NFV however, is not free from challenges. While implementing NFV, network operators face a lot of challenges which include:

Archaic Infrastructure: Most of the businesses, especially network operators has been using legacy infrastructure. Hence, NFV can only be deployed in new applications. NFV functions are therefore being deployed gradually and the returns on investments are being used to purchase modern infrastructure through which complex NFV projects can be purchased in the future.

Managing Perceptions: When operators plan to implement NFV in their business, they think of software products that are similar to the ones they have. However, in most cases, enterprise solutions are unable to provide carrier grade reliability since they are not designed for the telecom environment. However, the good news is NFV does not necessarily require carrier grade reliability and hence have immense latent opportunities in them.

Technological/operational: To implement NFV successfully, it is important that operators become extremely comfortable with NFV. Neither performance not reliability can be sacrificed while making this move to a virtualized architecture. Moreover, it is also important for operators to adopt to the changing technology of NFV. Hence, vendors and equipment providers have to adapt to this change as well. This will not happen very fast, hence a considerable amount of patience is required.

Practical Applications of NFV-

NFV has been successfully implemented across a variety of businesses. Here are a few examples which stand out:

Microsoft Azure: Microsoft Azure is one of the best examples of successful implementation of NFV. The access to Microsoft Azure cloud services marketplace has been optimized through hybrid cloud so that secure and reliable cloud services can be provided to SMBs and enterprises. These services are optimized to ensure they can take the pressure of business applications and workloads.

Juniper Networks: Juniper Networks has developed a number of well defined virtual enterprise solutions like network connectivity, VPN creation, firewall, etc. The entire thing is done through the implementation of NFV technology like Contrail Cloud Platform and Open Stack CMS. An entire service chain has been implemented which are in turn offered to enterprise customers.

Metaswitch Networks: Metaswitch has a virtual IMS core network through which all kinds of IMS services can be provided in a matter of minutes. This has been done by implementing virtual cloud based structures which are scalable and self-operated. The service can not only calculate the size of a specific IMS core network automatically, it also has auto-healing properties which ensure the fastest recovery and seamless operation.

NFV is definitely a technology to look out for in the coming days, especially in the telecommunications industry. The developments are expected to be rapid and the technology for the same will change fast. NFV will bring a sea change in how the industry works in the coming years along with fetching extra revenue.

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