What is Network Function Virtualization - NFV, and how will it impact your WAN?

Network Function Virtualization (NFV) is the concept of being able to programmatically add/modify the functionality of a network. You can think of NFVs as virtual appliances that you program into a network to inject various services into the network. Some of the primitive NFV concepts rely on static capabilities such as firewall’ing, NAT’ing, DHCP and static route/path selection. The network admin can push these capabilities onto the physical appliances implementing the NFV within a SDN (Software Defined Network) architecture. These rudimentary NFV concepts are valuable for managing and configuring the network, both within a data-center network, as well as for WAN networks.

One crucial difference between data-centers and WAN networks is the fact that in data-centers the connectivity within the data-center is hardly the bottle-neck. Unless the LAN network is misconfigured the virtual and real appliances within the data-center have access to practically unlimited connectivity between them. However, for Wide Area Networks, i.e. for the IP pipe that is connecting the office to the cloud, is almost always limited and therefore creates a performance bottleneck for the services. This performance bottleneck being connectivity is drastically different than the Local Area Network (LAN) within the data-centers, and therefore, requires a different perspective on the NFVs that can address the performance bottleneck.

NFVs that can address WAN performance problems are fundamental for SD-WAN routers to be able to provide the optimum application and service performance. Sometimes, this requires NFV to provide network monitoring capabilities, sometimes this means NFV needs to have agile algorithms to optimize the flow against latency, throughput, jitter, packet-loss, the history of any or all of those metrics, depending on the application and service. This opens up a tremendous set of benefit that NFVs can provide for enterprise branch office networks, by utilizing NFVs to build the living and breathing WAN network that can pro-actively solve the networking problems, before they have a negative impact on the network performance.

Bringing together sophisticated and algorithmically complex NFVs, in a user-friendly graphical user interface is where the software defined networking shines. Depending on the application portfolio (potentially changing over time, even during the day) and WAN transport characteristics (again, changing over time, even during the day), a set of NFVs that can work around networking problems, prioritizing and switching transports in real-time, can bring together a branch office WAN network that has built-in resiliency and per flow performance optimization.

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.


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