Virtual Reality: Network Function Virtualization Choices

By Greg BryanDec 15, 2015


In the second part of a three-part series, we continue to explore one of the hottest topic from WAN Summit London 2016: SDN and NFV. As a follow up to the first part of the discussion on real world experiences of SDN and NFV in the field, Erik Kreifeldt from TeleGeography, moves the discussion to what functions are best suited for virtualization. 

 Erik suggested several network functions that could be virtualized, including:

  • Firewalls
  • WAN optimisation
  • Wireless WAN controllers
  • Routers

Erik then asked: where an enterprise should start in terms of network function virtualization? 

QoS a Big Driver for Masergy Customers’ Early Adoption

Ray Watson, VP of Global Technology at Masergy, said that Masergy’s starting point was virtual CE—the customer edge.

“Lots of folks didn’t want a layer 3 device on-prem,” said Ray, “or perhaps they wanted a single layer 3 device with a failover in the cloud. And you need those functions for QoS and BGP, right?”

Masergy therefore responded to the contradiction between their customers’ need for this functionality, and their lack of desire to host it on premise.

“Firewall has been slower to pick up,” said Ray. “People are still very much enamoured with those blinking lights; they want to see a physical device. For us, session border controllers are the newest, latest, greatest thing.”

Telstra Wants to Deliver Integrated Front-End Orchestration

Tom Homer, Head of EMEA and Americas at Telstra, said, “We’ve launched and we have customers using virtualized firewalls and routers now. In terms of where we’re going next, it’s WAN optimisation, session border control, that kind of thing, in a catalogue that will effectively be built like an App Store, where customers can pick and choose in a simple way.”

Tom said, “Most of our customers want to virtualize routers and firewalls because they need BGP because they’re using AWS and Azure. So we’re going to be launching, with our partners at CISCO, a single portal for cloud and SDN so customers can dial up their SDN and cloud service at the same time. We’ll be offering front-end orchestration across multiple networks and cloud platforms because that’s what our customers are asking for.”

It Depends on Your VNF Architecture

Malcolm Orr, Senior Platform Architect at Colt, agreed with the rest of the panel that open standards are critical. He told the assembled audience that Colt had virtualized its layer 3 CPE three years ago.

“But we did it in networking hardware – in Juniper and Alcatel Lucent,” Malcolm explained, “before NFV had really taken off. It did save us a ton of money in terms of buying that physical hardware and shipping it out. Our next step is to look at Intel platform or commodity hardware. I think that we draw a line there; it’s going to depend on your VNF architecture.”

These comments from Malcolm began a new debate between the panel about the white box revolution, of which you can read more here.

Although we might be just arriving at the beginning of a white box revolution, the panel all agreed that NFV has become a well-established toolset in the last four years or so. Enterprise customers have many proven NFV solutions from which to choose.

Find out how the first part of the panel discussion went here.


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