Networking is experiencing changes.
Conceptual changes. Technological changes. Cultural changes.
Everything from DevOps, infrastructure as code, DevOps Networking and NetDevOps. Terms to try and describe the shift.
The shift is more fundamental than terms. The shift comes from no longer needing to run proprietary software on hardware. This change provides the necessary environment for network function virtualization.
What is Network Function Virtualization?
Network function virtualization (NFV) is the all-encompassing concept for separating hardware and software in the computer networking space.
NFV is a framework for network architecture. It provides a methodology for the design, implementation, and deployment of networks. It takes into consideration software defined networking (SDN) and preparing for the use of non-proprietary software to hardware integrations.
The concept was introduced in a Whitepaper published at the “SDN and OpenFlow World Congress” in Darmstadt, Germany.
There are two main concerns to address when discussing NFV. The first concern is the framework. The second concern is the SDN vs. NFV conversation. I will address both concepts below.
Network Function Virtualization Framework
Understanding the network framework in NFV provides insights into the possibilities for your organization.
The architecture for NFV consists of three main concepts. The NFV framework is infrastructure, functions, and management.
Infrastructure is the foundation for NFV. Network functions virtualization infrastructure (NFVI) is the hardware components that make up your network. Most of the computing components are widely available.
As the infrastructure components have become commoditized, this has allowed the NFV conversation to permeate organizations. It has also given rise to the SDN conversation.
Network functions are the second area of the NFV framework. This is the part of the conversation where implementation of network functions occurs. In an NFV environment, this is accomplished through software implementation.
SDN is the main component of the network functions concept in the NFV framework.
The last concept that the NFV framework focuses on management. Better discussed as network management.
Using an NFV framework, the design of a network is in such a way that network management is done through SDN. This allows NetDevOps and infrastructure as code to play a role. Modern concepts in the networking conversation.
Although SDN should play a role in NFV, there is still debate about how they work together.
The Battle Between SDN and NFV
SDN and NFV do not work as opposites. You cannot integrate one without the other.
As we looked at the three framework concepts above, we see that NFV encompasses hardware, software, and management. That means SDN makes possible two of the three concepts in the NFV framework.
NFV and SDN make possible many important cultural shifts in networking. The first is network automation and the second is NetDevOps.
With NFV and SDN working in tandem to accomplish network automation, repetitive tasks can be eliminated and managing a complex network is possible. Automation becomes a natural progression.
By designing a network with NFV and SDN in mind, network automation can enter the conversation.
The next aspect that is the integration of networking into DevOps. NetDevOps is the cultural shift that we will see in networking. This better aligns the networking team with DevOps, which ultimately makes the organization stronger.
Network function virtualization is a modern way to design networks. This is the all-encompassing methodology for SDN, infrastructure as code and integrating networking into DevOps.
To learn more about DevOps and networking, download the DevOps Networking eBook.