A transformation is rushing through the telecommunications domain, leading to possibly one of the biggest disruptions in the industry’s nearly two-hundred-year-old history. Telecommunication networks are migrating from traditional discrete hardware-centric deployments to cloud-based deployments, with critical network elements deployed using software running on appliances built using off-the-shelf components.
At the heart of this revolution is one key technology: Network Function Virtualization (NFV), which aims at virtualizing both network applications as well as the network connectivity. NFV has been undergoing trials over the past few years, and new standards as well as architecture options have emerged. Software-centric network operations have been proven to help Communications Service Providers (CSPs) effectively manage their services and end user experience by utilizing the NFV domain.
CSP Business Dynamics Driving Sift to NFV
While subscriber data traffic has been growing dramatically with the increase in over-the-top (OTT) and other data-centric services requiring high capital investments, CSP revenues have not kept pace. NFV leverages Software-Defined Networking (SDN) to help increase revenues with the rapid introduction of new services and reduce expenses by shifting from expensive proprietary hardware to network appliances utilizing standard components with lower lifecycle costs. With NFV, functionality such as firewalls, load balancers, deep packet inspection and IP Multimedia System (IMS) nodes, which were traditionally implemented with hardware-based appliances, are delivered as software-based Virtual Network Functions (VNFs) on a carrier-grade appliance infrastructure. SDN, on the other hand, complements NFV by simplifying the connectivity between physical and virtual network elements at layer 2/3 via network virtualization protocols such as OpenFlow. NFV and SDN supported by embedded network appliances together offer an elegant solution for CSPs looking to address the challenges driven by business dynamics and operational considerations for today’s telecom networks.
NFV Drives Enhanced Network Efficiency
SDN can improve network security by providing layer 2 to 4 packet filtering at network ingress and throughout the network, thus reducing the amount of undesirable traffic entering and traversing the network. Similarly, with the ability to dynamically modify service chains and network connectivity it is easier to insert a physical or virtual firewall/IDS/IPS into a network path or orchestrate packet captures and flow analyses. With more dynamic security policies and RBAC there will be less scope for security and resource allocation loopholes to occur.
At its core, the fundamental NFV value proposition is to enable CSPs to operate their networks more efficiently. First of all, there are a number of specific areas where NFV benefits a CSP’s IT framework.
- Operational efficiency. A single point of control for network, storage, and compute configurations makes administration much easier. The SDN/NFV approach supports dynamically adding, deleting, or connecting end-point groups and automating provisioning.
- Enhanced modularity and scalability. Quality of Service (QoS) controls provide rapid adjustments to throughput, performance, and service chaining, thereby delivering greater responsiveness to customers.
- Reduced time-to-market. With greater configuration flexibility and centralized management, the NFV appliance platform makes it possible to quickly test new business solutions (without adding new hardware) and launch products rapidly.
- Rapid provisioning. With the capability to configure compute resources, network resources, and storage on demand, provisioning times can be reduced from weeks to minutes.
- Greater cost savings. With fewer hardware components required, use of standardized network appliances, more efficient power use, centralized management features, and a common operational model, NFV infrastructure offers opportunities for reduced operational expenses and reduced total cost of ownership.
CSP Network Infrastructure Shift through NFV Network Appliances
NFV can be used for most CSP core and access-level network infrastructure. Appliance-based network forwarding devices that support SDN approaches such as OpenFlow can be used as network parts to replace transport elements such as routers and switches in both the Wide Area Network (WAN) and Local Area Network (LAN).
Similarly, most hardware-based elements, such as Evolved Packet Core (EPC) nodes, IP Multimedia System (IMS) platforms, and Content Delivery Network (CDN) platforms, can all be virtualized on network appliance infrastructure with NFV. CSPs can also transition hardware-based Customer Peripheral Equipment (CPE), such as Set Top Boxes (STBs), to NFV-based standard infrastructure. In a completely virtualized environment, most services would be deployed on appliance-level platforms which can offer Telco-grade capabilities.
Interface Masters Technologies’ embedded network appliances are scalable NFV platforms capable of supporting commercial deployments for telecommunications service providers. The Interface Masters NFV appliances feature off-the-shelf server hardware technologies combined with software from open- source ecosystem partners to form a fully converged, virtualized infrastructure designed to execute a wide variety of virtual network functions (VNFs). The network appliance NFV platform also includes foundational software and open interfaces for management and orchestration, simplifying operation and enabling easier integration. From a deployment perspective, the Interface Masters NFV Platform can be equipped for applications in a carrier environment, anywhere at any scale.
Interface Masters Technologies has for over 20 years been providing off-the-shelf innovative network security solutions with customization services to OEMs, Fortune 100 and startup companies. Our headquarters is located in San Jose, California in the heart of Silicon Valley where we are proud to design and manufacture all of our products. Based on MIPS, ARM, PowerPC and x86 processors, Interface Masters appliance models enable OEMs to significantly reduce time-to-market with reliable, pre-tested and pre-integrated networking solutions that can meet the most challenging security requirements.