NFV INSIGHTS: The right SDN is right for NFV

Next Generation Communications Blog

NFV INSIGHTS: The right SDN is right for NFV

By: Andreas Lemke, Ph.D. - Alcatel-Lucent

It feels like it was just a few months ago when you could read articles in the trade press lumping together SDN and NFV with NFV being a form of SDN or vice versa.  Yes, both somehow are about virtualization and about converting hardware into software. Today – after numerous proofs-of-concept run by service provides around the globe – we know the role of SDN as virtually indispensable for NFV solutions that aspire to deliver the kind of agility and operational simplification we all expect from NFV. Only SDN can deliver quickly enough the (virtual) networks needed for newly deployed network functions. Alcatel-Lucent has recently demonstrated a complete virtual evolved packet core (vEPC) including a virtual IMS/VoLTE deployed in less than 30 minutes.

NFV and SDN enable on-demand service composition by steering traffic through a sequence of middle-box service functions (service function chaining), such as firewalls and traffic optimization. For example, an enterprise or consumer customer can use a self-service portal to check off the desired functions, which causes virtual network functions to be deployed or scaled and (per-subscriber) routing policies to be changed automatically (flow-through provisioning).

Likewise, NFV responds to changing traffic within minutes by spinning up additional virtual machines within the same data center but also in a data center close to where the traffic demand originates. NFV enables rapid software upgrades while containing the risk of service degradation. We are even seeing demand on the horizon for adopting Devops models in the telco domain.

A classical operational model with change requests being sent to the networking department is no longer up to the task. The network needs to be as dynamic as the server infrastructure and it is clear that only SDN can fill the bill. This will be a stepwise process and not just any SDN will be suitable for NFV. Telco networks are not only about dropping packets in on one side and the packets popping back out at their destinations. Telco networks are designed to deliver enough capacity, high enough performance, security and high availability for the critical services running over them in an end-to-end geo-distributed environment.

Clearly, SDN is right for NFV but it needs to be the right SDN. Read the white paper “The right SDN is right for NFV” to learn about critical network requirements for NFV, SDN use cases and four stages of SDN integration into NFV bringing different degrees of reward to service providers. Alcatel-Lucent CloudBand™ and Nuage Networks® VSP are discussed as an example integrated SDN/NFV solution.

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