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SDN/NFV Solutions

SDN and NFV

Software Defined Networks and Network Functions Virtualization

Modern networks are made up of a wide range of components, from relatively simple modems and multiplexers, demarcation devices, gateways, ROADMs, DSLAMs, BRAS, routers, eNodeBs, load balancers, NATs and firewalls to core switches and central application servers. And new, increasingly complex systems are constantly being added.

This is necessary because the services offered – or requested by the user – have to be increasingly tailored to the individual customer and their requirements. In addition, these services have to be introduced ever more quickly, and the lifetime of the service is shortened in turn by new services.

If we see this in terms of constantly new hardware, we are faced with two problems: on the one hand, the acquisition costs alone become astronomical; on the other hand, a huge number of different systems need to be installed, operated and maintained. Other technical challenges that make experimenting with new ideas in the network difficult are added to these economic aspects; network elements and protocols are becoming more complex, in turn making the design and standardisation process slower and more expensive.

Two approaches are currently promising to improve this situation: software-defined networks (SDN) and network function virtualisation (NFV).

SDN

SDN replaces the many network management components and protocols with a central software application that takes over the configuration and monitoring of all network elements. This then has an overall picture of the entire network as opposed to network protocols that can each only map one part of the network.

SDN also has the following advantages:

  • Simple implementation of new network concepts
  • Faster product cycles for services (software development vs protocol standardisation and hardware development)
  • Cost reduction through simpler network elements
  • Simplification of network operations through centralised orchestration
  • Faster introduction, relocation and upgrading of new features

NFV

The basic idea of NFV is to replace proprietary hardware with software that runs on standard (commercial off-the-shelf (COTS)) servers. This is a natural continuation of the trend towards virtualisation that has taken hold of all of IT and that replaces real servers with virtual machines.

Previously, the most money in research and development was poured into software for network functions. These were not, however, written for open platforms, but rather for specific hardware in order to realise maximum performance at minimum cost. But this leads to a less flexible overall system.

If one separates this coupling of hardware and software, virtual network functions (VNFs) can be placed on COTS platforms in data centres or distributed in the network (distributed NFV).

The advantages of NFV are:

  • Fast introduction, relocation, upgrading and deactivation for network or value-added services
  • Standardisation of functionality independent of the terminal equipment
  • Good scalability of the cost of COTS over proprietary hardware
  • Flexible placement of network functionality optimised for efficiency or cost
  • Numerous network functions can be united on one platform

Blue Planet by Ciena is an example of an SDN/NFV system.

Blue Planet