Network Function Virtualization (NFV) is a new technology that is based on Software Defined Networking (SDN) and started getting popular with the SDN installations in data centers over the past decade. As the SDN technology continues to move to the near end of the connectivity, i.e. the office WAN, the NFV load balancer is becoming a critical component of the network strategies of enterprises.
First let’s address the question of what an NFV load balancer is. An NFV load balancer is software that can be loaded onto a physical or virtual router that can provide WAN load balancing capabilities for the WAN links of an enterprise network. The software defined nature of an NFV load balancer means that the load-balancing algorithms can be quite advanced (mostly based on packet level broadband bonding approaches), and can literally spread (load balance) even a single session over two or more WAN links.
Usually NFV load balancers are implemented on the transport layer (layer 4 on the OSI model) or higher. This means they can be implemented across different service providers (i.e. one of the two WANs can be from provider A and the other one can be from a different provider B) without requiring any coordination with the service provider. The overlay architecture of the NFV load balancer also means that the bonding tunnel is capable of shielding network problems from the higher layers including the application layer. In other words, if during a file transfer or a remote desktop session, if one of the WAN links goes into a problem state, that problem can be routed around by the NFV load balancer, provided the software defined algorithms are sophisticated enough to do this automatically.
NFV load balancers should also work with standard routing so that you can inject it into your network, say between the WAN modems and your firewall/router, seamlessly. With Mushroom Networks nomenclature we call this “passthrough mode”, whereby the existing firewall/router and the modems don’t need any modifications and the NFV load balancer can be simply be dropped into the network to manage the overlay bonding tunnel. In some cases, that tunnel could be the legacy VPN connection that connects the office to the cloud.
Cahit Akin, CEO, Mushroom Networks, Inc.
Mushroom Networks is the provider of SD-WAN (Software Defined WAN) and NFV solutions capable of Broadband Bonding that enables self-healing WAN networks that route around network problems such as latency, jitter and packet loss.