Insight: NFV for Data Centers in the Age of Cloud

Posted by Mae Kowalke on Friday, April 03, 2015 with No comments

In the quest to keep pace with desktop virtualization, cloud computing, and mobile device integration, data center network operators are turning to network function virtualization (NFV), notes tech writer David Geer in a recent TechTarget article

In large data center environments, NFV can be a remedy for implementing expensive and proprietary network devices, and also addresses the need to economically segment network communications in shared environments. 

Other potential advantages of NFV in data center environments include:
  • Decreases purchasing, powering, cooling, and racking requirements
  • Reduces need for management and troubleshooting resources
  • Simplifies provisioning
  • More efficient staffing with blurred lines between networking and operations teams
  • Makes the network more flexible
Telco data center operators specifically also stand to benefit form this type of virtualization, noted Heavy Reading senior analyst Roz Roseboro in a recent Light Reading article. In the networking domain, OpenStack is gaining traction, but still leaves some things to be desired in terms of functionality required to support highly available and scalable networks.  
Roseboro summarizes conclusions from her recent "Overlays for Data Center Networking" report by suggesting that overlay networking is one way to close the technology gap and bring virtualization into the telco realm.

"Overlays have been proposed as a way to provide the connectivity needed to support the networking needs within the data center. They abstract the details of the physical network, making it much faster to connect virtual machines (VMs) and other devices," Roseboro explains.  

But, given the potential of overlays to add a lot more complexity into data center environments, NFV should not be ignored as a possible more viable approachespecially since it allows functions previously tied to proprietary platforms to be supported on general-purpose servers.  

The jury is still out on how much complexity overlays add in the long run. As with all things technology in the real world, a combination of approaches likely will turn out to be the most practical. 
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