Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) is a network architecture concept that proposes using IT virtualization related technologies, to virtualize entire classes of network node functions into building blocks that may be connected, or chained, together to create communication services.
NFV relies upon, but differs from, traditional server virtualization techniques such as those used in enterprise IT. A virtualized network function, or VNF, may consist of one or more virtual machines running different software and processes, on top of industry standard high volume servers, switches and storage, or even Cloud computing infrastructure, instead of having custom hardware appliances for each network function.
In October 2012, an industry specifications group, “Network Functions Virtualisation(NFV)” published a white paper at a conference in Darmstadt, Germany on Software Defined Networking(SDF) and OpenFlow.
Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV) aims to address these problems by evolving standard IT virtualization technology to consolidate many network equipment types onto industry standard high volume servers, switches and storage.
This technology could provide significant benefits for network operators and their customers:
Reduced operator CAPEX and OPEX through reduced equipment costs and reduced power consumption
Reduced time-to-market to deploy new network services
Improved return on investment from new services
Greater flexibility to scale up, scale down or evolve services
Openness to the virtual appliance market and pure software entrants
Opportunities to trial and deploy new innovative services at lower risk
Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) is highly complementary to Software Defined Networking (SDN). These topics are mutually beneficial but are not dependent on each other. Network functions can be visualized and deployed without an SDN being required and vice-versa.