Why Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) Calls for a Distributed Network Architecture

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Why Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) Calls for a Distributed Network Architecture

By: Paula Bernier, Executive Editor, TMC

There’s no question that the network functions virtualization (NFV) technology around which many telecommunications carriers and vendors are rallying takes a page from the virtualization that already has taken hold in IT data centers. But you can’t judge a book by its cover. NFV and IT virtualization also have their differences.

One key difference is that while data center virtualization tends to rely on a centralized architecture, NFV calls for a distributed one, Andreas Lemke, marketing lead for the CloudBand NFV platform at Alcatel-Lucent, points out in a recent TechZine posting by Andreas Lemke, Marketing Lead, CloudBand NFV platform, Alcatel-Lucent titled, Why distribution is important in NFV.

“As the IT world virtualized, it found that a small number of warehouse-size data centers are more cost-effective than many small, widely spread ones. This is because companies that build data centers do not have to build and operate local access networks,” he wrote.

“In contrast to IT clouds, such as Amazon’s, distribution matters in NFV networks,” Lemke continued. “Many carrier applications have needs that are ill-suited to a centralized architecture.”

Those needs relate to availability, low latency (a key consideration in carriers’ radio access networks, where vRANs are being deployed), network offload (for which content delivery networks are being used), regulations, and security.

Consider network offload, for example. Because video and data have pushed ahead of voice as the most plentiful traffic on the network, there’s a need to optimize network operations for this more bandwidth-loving traffic. Using point-to-point video streaming in all cases is inefficient, notes Lemke, so carriers are leveraging content distribution and multicasting to make the most of their network resources, and a hierarchical, distributed architecture supports these network optimization efforts.

A distributed network also tends to equate to higher reliability and disaster survivability, he says, as when you have network resources in a broader geography the chances that all of those resources will be adversely affected by a man-made or natural disaster becomes lower.

And, while a distributed network creates more potential points of security risk, it also mitigates risk because more nodes exist, meaning there’s a greater chance parts of the network will be unaffected in the event of a security problem, and with the proper processes and tools, the attacks can be identified and isolated.


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