Over the past couple of years, network function virtualization (NFV) has become an increasingly popular solution to various networking challenges to a plethora of different companies operating within a wide selection of different industrial and commercial sectors. We have covered vCPE in previous articles as the most popular use case of NFV, this article focuses more on other examples of NFV.
With the expansion of the Internet of Things (IoT) and steps forward in network communications technologies, as well as growing demand for ever more advanced services, network function virtualization is allowing enterprises to design, provide, and ease into much more advanced services and operations as well as reduce outgoings through cost savings.
In this article, we’ve put together five examples of network function virtualization use cases that demonstrate how NFV is being used to address a range of challenges as well as provide enhanced solutions to these and other networking hurdles in order to enhance services and reduce outgoings.
So, let’s jump straight in.
1- Network Virtualization
The main use with which NFV technologies are being used by mainly telecom companies around the world is, of course, for network virtualization.
This process creates a virtual network on top of the physical network and allows service providers to expand and accelerate development and innovation of services, as well as other network requirements such as provisioning.
In order to optimize their network services, consumers look to network virtualization to decouple their network functions such as DNS, caching, IDS, and firewalling from the proprietary hardware that was, until recently, the dominant solutions, so as to enable them to run on software instead.
This gives service providers the agility and flexibility they need when rolling out new network services and can help to reduce their spending on space-stealing physical hardware and the costs associated with running, maintaining, and occasionally repairing it.
However, while network virtualization is one of the most popular applications of network functions virtualization, it is by no means the only one.
2- Mobile Edge Computing
Mobile edge computing is another technological innovation that has gone from strength to strength over the past couple of years and looks only to be gaining momentum as we carry on into 2018. While many may ask how network function virtualization and mobile edge computing relate to one another, they are indeed intrinsically linked and are actively influencing each other in both areas of development and the expansion of applications.
Using network function virtualization allows edge devices to perform computational services and provide network functions by generating and utilizing either a single or multiple virtual machines (VM).
Network function virtualization, alongside other technological and network advances and developments such as software-defined networking and artificial intelligence, will likely become the prime solutions for the network challenges of tomorrow due to their early integration and combination with each other.
3- Video Analytics
Another tool that has seen a huge increase in its potential since the inception of the Internet of Things is video analytics systems and software.
Now, companies are able to capture titanic amounts of data using IoT and smart devices in their factories, stores, offices, and even farms.
One of the biggest issues facing modern networking is end-to-end network latency, which poses a real challenge to applications and network services that are extremely sensitive to network delays, such as video analytics.
In order to combat this challenge, enterprises have been turning to NFV and SDN architectures in order to reduce network resource utilization and improve latency.
This could, when combined with using video analytics at the network edge, reduce bandwidth use by up to 90% according to some proposals.
With IoT, smart, and edge devices enabling more and more data to be generated, collected, and then analysed, video analytics systems and software have become and will continue to be an increasingly important part of utilizing the Big Data now available.
Network functions virtualization is the architecture on which to build these systems upon.
4- Orchestration Engines
One of the most beneficial NFV use cases is that of orchestration engines. With traditional legacy networks, issues such as low agility, human error, and lack of automatic processes and alerts made these kinds of networks extremely limited in their capabilities.
One of the biggest causes of network downtime is human error, hence why automated systems are in such high demand.
They also have the benefit of reducing the costs associated with paying for maintenance and upkeep as they require markedly less human intervention.
Centralized orchestration engines can prove to be an extremely worthwhile investment for those willing to get started, however, when considering a centralized automation engine, the following features are widely regarded as critical:
- Centralized policy automation
- Centralized hybrid WAN management
- Network wide visibility and segmentation
- Public key infrastructure (PKI) certificate management
- Plug and play from day 0.
Just like the tools we use to farm our crops or manufacture our cars, the tools we use to protect our physical and virtual tools has evolved thanks to the various leaps in technological progress that have occurred over the last decade.
Many security vendors are already offering virtual firewalls to protect VMs, however, in reality, firewalls are just one of nearly every security device or component that will eventually be virtualized using network functions virtualization as well as software-defined networking.
One of the main attractions to using virtualized security is the idea of centralized control mechanisms and equally distributed enforcement, these two benefits alone have seen companies looking to bolster their security flock to investigate these kinds of security solutions.
Network function virtualization may not have quite conquered the world just yet, but, with the world becoming increasingly virtual and NFV (as well as SDN) gaining more and more momentum, we could soon see a day when virtual security, as well as the other use cases featured on this list, become the rule, rather than the exception.