The recent launch of the Open Platform for NFV (OPNFV) initiative by the Linux Foundation presents enormous opportunities for enterprises utilizing the OpenStack platform. A component of the model, Network Function Virtualization (NFV) is a relatively new concept gaining significant traction in industries with complex and often extensive networking requirements, such as telecommunications. NFV technology helps these industries lower their infrastructure costs and accelerate deployment of network services. By supporting and developing open software based on open standards, companies such as Intel and Red Hat aim to deliver the benefits of NFV to every business.
NFV architecture prescribes decoupling network functionality provided by proprietary hardware appliances, and implementing it in software that can be virtualised within a cloud environment. Common networking devices widely used within the enterprise, such firewalls, routers, load balancers, VPN servers, and WAN accelerators, are ideal candidates for replacement. NFV leverages cloud virtualisation technology to consolidate a variety of network equipment types onto industry-standard, high-performance servers.
The advantages NFV provides to business are numerous. Replacing expensive proprietary network hardware appliances with cost-effective, Intel-based server infrastructure can provide significant cost savings. Proprietary network security devices often contain custom cryptographic components necessary to support high volumes of encrypted traffic. Intel's latest Xeon E5 processor supports AES-NI data-encryption technology, allowing high-performance network throughput for virtual network devices built on standard cloud infrastructure. Centralised configuration and management of NFV services across an organisation improves operational efficiency, and allows new services to be deployed faster. Consolidation of network equipment into a cloud environment will also reduce network complexity and streamline datacentre operations.
The original NFV specification was created by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), from which most current implementations are derived. Technology pioneer Intel has also played an integral role in shaping the future of NFV and software-defined networking (SDN) by defining open standards for network and server platforms. Its commitment to OpenStack also means that the cloud platform will likely become the foundation of OPNFV development efforts to deliver interoperable and scalable NFV solutions.
Network Function Virtualization is one of the newest frontiers in enterprise IT. Enabled by innovations in cloud computing technology built on industry-standard, high-volume servers, it promises significant improvements in the delivery of agile, dynamic network functionality. The collaborative efforts of cloud industry partners including Intel and Red Hat to develop an open, interoperable NFV framework integrating with the OpenStack ecosystem will ensure the accessibility of this innovative technology for all clients. With momentum behind this architecture accelerating and adoption rates increasing, Network Function Virtualisation is certainly a cloud computing frontier worth monitoring closely.