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Oct 30, 2013

Looking back at the first year of Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) and expectations for the future.

NFV is one of today’s hottest telecommunications trends. Introduced just over a year ago at the Layer123 SDN & OpenFlow® World Congress, NFV has since become a leading topic for both vendors and carriers. NFV was designed to transform the way that network operators architect networks by applying standard IT virtualization technology to consolidate single-purpose appliances into industry-standard, high-volume servers, switches, and storage. Its initial popularity stems from the straightforward migration of self-contained computing tasks to Linux and VM environments, but much richer capabilities follow from the combination of NFV and Software-Defined Networking (SDN). The Open Networking Foundation (ONF) supports the NFV movement because SDN enables virtualization of some of the most difficult and valuable network functions - those that involve the cooperation of the forwarding plane. Together, SDN and NFV are encouraging both established and new companies to bring new network management approaches to market, ultimately leading to an entirely new, disaggregated provision of Operational Support System (OSS) approaches, systems, and entire architectures.

Driven by intense service-provider demand, the SDN and NFV markets are expected to account for nearly $4 Billion in revenue by 2014, according to Market Research Reports. While the benefits of SDN and NFV are well known in the enterprise IT and data center worlds, both technologies also bring a host of benefits to the telecommunications service provider and carrier communities. Not only can SDN and NFV assist in addressing the explosive capacity demand of mobile traffic, but they can also reduce the cost service providers face in order to handle this demand by diminishing reliance on expensive and proprietary hardware platforms.

Over the past year, ONF has worked closely with the ETSI NFV ISG to bridge the NFV and SDN initiatives by making sure the NFV requirements can be satisfied by an OpenFlow® SDN substrate. As we expand our efforts into support of services above OpenFlow, NFV will benefit even further.

Although virtualization in the enterprise IT and data center domains has received significant attention in recent years, service provider network virtualization is still in its infancy. SDN and NFV empower a multitude of network functions to be implemented cost effectively in software, ranging from standard mobile IP Multimedia System (IMS) services to features such as Deep Packet Inspection (DPI). For the telecommunications industry, the introduction and adoption of NFV have the potential to significantly change the way telecom networks are built and operated, including increased flexibility and lower costs. Driving widespread adoption of NFV over the next two to four years will require significant cooperation and partnership by the leading service providers and their IT suppliers. We at ONF are excited to help bring the benefits of NFV to the telecommunications industry and to enhance NFV with the full benefits of SDN.

- Dan Pitt, Executive Director

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Dan Pitt