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Ten recommendations to improve your NFV network evolution

As providers move into network functions virtualization, these 10 recommendations can help guarantee a successful NFV network transition.

To remain competitive, leading service providers are focused on introducing new services and reducing costs. The development of network functions virtualization (NVF) technology is helping them transform their networks, with the promise of greater flexibility, agility and cost savings. To help plan for the transition, here are 10 ways providers can leverage NFV's benefits.

But first, if you're just starting to evaluate the technology, the NFV network leverages IT technologies -- including virtualization, standard servers and open software -- to fundamentally change the way networks are built and operated. The key benefits service providers will gain from NFV implementation include faster time to market, new service enablement, the ability to rapidly scale resources up and down, and reduced capital and operating expenses.

In its development, NFV is in the process of moving from lab tests and trials into small production deployments, usually with a single virtualized function. NFV has proven itself in pilot deployments, and the majority of service providers have had positive experiences with their implementations. Early NFV deployments include a wide range of applications, including virtual customer premises equipment, IP Multimedia Subsystem, evolved packet core, deep packet inspection, routing, video, content delivery networkings and security, among others.

NFV represents an important set of virtual technologies that will ultimately transform telecommunications networks.

On the standards front, standards bodies, including the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) and Open Platform for NFV, have made considerable progress in sketching out initial frameworks for NFV architectures and interoperability. But significant work continues on orchestration, scalability, multi-vendor interoperability and OSS/BSS integration.

Top 10 steps to jumpstart NFV

  1. Learn from the early NFV deployments, including lab trials and pilot deployments. Many service providers have experience with NFV and have shared their knowledge publicly or within the standards organizations.
  2. Pick the appropriate use case. Many network functions are good targets for virtualization, but not all may be right for your network or organizational structure.
  3. Start small. Is there a new revenue-producing opportunity that requires quick and inexpensive deployment, like virtual CPE? Is there an area of the network that requires an upgrade or refresh? Starting small, with a narrowly defined target, allows providers to begin implementing NFV in a controlled environment.
  4. Devote appropriate resources and form cross-divisional teams. NFV will require coordination among the network, IT and cloud organizations within large service provider organizations.
  5. Tie NFV efforts to deliver new cloud services and enable agile OSS/BSS platforms. In order to gain the benefits of NFV, service providers need to redesign their back offices to rapidly deliver and bill for new types of services.
  6. Maintain deployment flexibility and leverage standards. NFV is still early in its technological evolution, and many standards are in flux. Open standards driven by OPNFV, Open Daylight and OpenStack are in progress, but will take time and effort.
  7. Leverage the synergies between SDN and NFV. Many NFV technologies employ SDN controllers to achieve management and programmability benefits. SDN technologies can also enable the expected cost and agility benefits in your data center operations.
  8. Have a plan for NFV (and be willing to change it). Migration to NFV will be a long-term effort. Your plan should include phases, goals and metrics, with appropriate high-level organizational support and leadership.
  9. Select key partners for initial implementation. NFV deployment will require assistance from a range of technology suppliers. Picking the right partners (ones that work well with others) will be critical to the success of your multi-vendor NFV implementation.
  10. Evaluate the costs and benefits of NFV deployments. The benefits and costs of NFV will vary over time. For example, Capex may go down, but initial Opex may increase.

Strategies to integrate NFV

NFV represents an important set of virtual technologies that will ultimately transform telecommunications networks. Implementations are proceeding gradually, as leading service providers test a variety of use-case scenarios. Most such organizations are likely to integrate NFV into their strategies over the next five years. NFV must be part of the broader transformation effort and will require service providers to make significant changes.

Next Steps

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This was last published in February 2015

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