What is Network Functions Virtualization?

What is Network Functions Virtualization?

Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) abstracts network functions, allowing them to be installed, controlled, and manipulated by software running on standardized compute nodes. NFV incorporates cloud and virtualization technologies to drive rapid development of new network services with elastic scale and automation. These technologies are often grouped as NFV and software-defined networking (SDN).

Problems Network Functions Virtualization Addresses

The desire to automate the orchestration and management of network, storage, and compute resources is a key driver of development for NFV and SDN. Imagine a scenario that includes one physical server with 10 VMs or hundreds of containers. This concept would never scale if manual operations were required. With automation, you can rapidly spin up or destroy virtualized network functions (VNFs) such as VMs, containers, routers, firewalls, and intrusion prevention systems (IPS), to elastically scale your network functions to match dynamic demand.

What Can You Do with Network Functions Virtualization?

NFV brings agility in delivering network services with capital efficiency by removing bottlenecks imposed by manual processes, and allowing new services to be deployed on demand. NFV allows service providers to deliver services faster and cost-effectively, and to leverage automation so that they can adapt to customers’ needs for scale and agility.

How Does Network Functions Virtualization Work?

The modular architecture of NFV is what allows service providers to automate at every level. Major components of the architecture include:

  • NFV infrastructure (NFVI) building block—Provides the virtualization layer (hypervisors or container management systems such as Kubernetes), and the physical compute, storage, and networking components that host the VNFs. NFVI is managed through the NFVI infrastructure manager (VIM), which controls the allocation of resources for the VNFs. OpenStack is an example of an open source VIM, controlling the physical and virtual resources. Red Hat OpenStack Platform is an example of a commercial VIM.
  • VNFs—Software-based applications that provide one or more network services. VNFs use the virtualized infrastructure provided by the NFVI to connect into the network and provide programmable, scalable network services. VNF Managers support the lifecycle of VNF instances and management of a VNF software.
  • Management and orchestration (MANO)—Provides the overarching management and orchestration of the VNFs in the NFV architecture. MANO instantiates the network services through the automation, provisioning, and coordination of workflows to the VIM and VNF Managers that instantiate the VNFs and overlay networking service chains. MANO connects the NFV architecture with the existing OSS/BSS.

Juniper Networks Implementation

The Juniper NFV solution incorporates:

  • A programmable cloud reference architecture for MANO that leverages Contrail for a turnkey management and orchestration platform.
  • A horizontal, pre-validated NFVI stack that leverages Contrail for a turnkey management and orchestration platform.
  • Cloud-scale fabric with end-to-end, carrier-grade underlay & overlay
  • Intent-based Networking using Apstra to automate the build, operations, troubleshooting, and security of the cloud infrastructure
  • Intelligent Services Edge to give visibility and control in SDNs and link the physical network and elements into the NFVI.
  • VNFs enabled through vSRX and vMX.
  • Customer premises equipment to securely extend VNFs to the end users with the NFX250 Network Services Platform.

Network Functions Virtualization FAQs

What is the difference between NFV and VNF?

Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) is a framework built upon the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) NFV architectural model to virtualize networking infrastructure and platform resources such as compute, storage, and networking.  The individual functions that become virtualized in software implementations, such as firewalls, routers, route reflectors, and broadband network gateways (BNGs), are called virtual network functions (VNFs).  

What are the advantages of NFV?

Unlike networking platforms that are built upon service-specific hardware, NFV supports a software infrastructure that is independent of the hardware. Commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) x86 server hardware acts as a common compute platform for the virtual machines (VMs) that deliver the network functions. Server compute, memory, and storage resources can be flexibly shared by multiple VMs simultaneously to tailor performance and scale for each service while optimizing costs. Unlike dedicated hardware platforms that support a single service and are amortized over time, NFV supports the agility to scale-out and scale-in to match service demand while hosting multiple services on a single physical server to achieve economic efficiencies.

What is the relationship between a VNF and a VM?

A VNF can be implemented as a single VM on a single server or it can be disaggregated and implemented as multiple VMs across multiple servers. Software disaggregation allows components of the service to be delivered from different platforms and/or locations – such as the control plane from a regional data center and the user plane from an edge cloud – to optimize performance, latency, scale, and cost. As a service, a VNF may be implemented using multiple applications, each run within its own VM, to tune the performance and scale of that application without the need to instantiate an entirely new VNF.   

How will NFV enable the 5G future?

5G is the fifth-generation mobile network, and it has been designed and implemented using NFV and cloud principles. NFV brings increased automation, operational agility, and reduced CapEx to all areas of the 5G infrastructure, from the 5G Core to the 5G RAN.     

How does NFV work?

Based upon the ETSI NFV reference architecture, hardware resources like compute, storage, and networking are abstracted using a virtualization layer called a hypervisor.  The hypervisor creates and runs VMs that share the underlying hardware. One or more VMs are used to implement a VNF. NFV management and orchestration, known as MANO, is handled by higher-level applications to automate the lifecycle of the NFV Infrastructure (NFVI) and VNF services. Networking of the VMs and services is the responsibility of a software-defined networking (SDN) controller, which automates subnet membership and policy enforcement.

What NFV technology/solutions/products does Juniper offer?

Juniper offers a comprehensive set of SDN, automation, and VNF solutions for enterprise, service provider, and cloud operator data centers.  These solutions include Contrail Networking SDN, Apstra Automated Data Center, and Paragon Automation for building and deploying automated NFV solutions.  As one of the world’s leading networking vendors, Juniper offers virtualized networking solutions for routing, cloud AI, and security to simplify the transition to NFV.