Network Functions Virtualization, or NFV, is a network architecture philosophy that utilizes virtualization technologies to manage core networking functions via software as opposed to having to rely on hardware to handle these functions. The NFV concept is based on building blocks of virtualized network functions, or VNFs, that can be combined to create full-scale networking communication services.
In Network Functions Virtualization, virtualized network functions handle specific network functions that run in one or more virtual machines on top of the hardware networking infrastructure (both wired and wireless) such as routers, switches, servers or cloud computing systems.
Examples of the types of networking functions that can be managed by NFV include network security and firewalls, network address translation (NAT), domain name services (DNS), caching, intrusion detection and more.
Potential Benefits of Network Functions Virtualization
Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) officially emerged in October 2012 when the European Telecommunications Standards Institute’s (ETSI) “Network Functions Virtualisation Working Group” published a white paper defining the NFV concept and its goals.
The NFV Working Group s goals for Network Functions Virtualization include reducing both capital and operating expenses involved in networking infrastructure and management, providing better flexibility for scaling up or scaling down network services as needed, improving the return on investment from adding new networking services, and reducing the time frame for bringing new network services to market.
Network Functions Virtualization and Software-Defined Networking
Network Functions Virtualization is similar in nature to software-defined networking (SDN) in that both concepts involve migrating network management from the hardware layer to the software layer. But Network Functions Virtualization focuses more on porting network functions to virtual environments, whereas SDN focuses more on the separation of the network control layer from its forwarding layer, according to ETSI.
So while the two concepts are complementary in many cases, Network Functions Virtualization and Software-Defined Networking exist independently of each other.