Is NFV set to surpass SDN in terms of interest from service providers? If so, it would reverse a major recent trend. The last few years have seen tremendous hype for SDN, with NFV orchestration often relegated to a supporting role, namely as something that can add to, and address the shortcomings in, SDN.
The SDN-NFV relationship and growing interest in NFV in 2015
A recent piece in TechTarget by Quocirca co-founder Clive Longbottom neatly explained this conventional conception of the SDN-NFV relationship. SDN, he argued, is a feasible way to create more adaptable networks in multi-vendor environments, but it suffers from issues such as potentially degraded performance as more traffic moves from the physical to virtual layer, creating additional chatter and latency.
Enter NFV. It aggregates sets of functions into single actions, making it possible to minimize network chatter and avoid standards conflicts at the physical level, since tasks such as firewalling and load balancing are virtualized to run on commodity hardware. Longbottom proposed a mix of SDN, NFV and traditional networking, a combination which seems reasonable considering how service providers are still migrating from legacy infrastructure.
However, there may be a shift away from thinking of SDN first and NFV second. While a report from Argus Insights found that SDN still stirs up more interest among service providers (it has actually never trailed NFV on this front, according to the firm's research), 2015 could be a big, leapfrog year for NFV.
"NFV is incredibly appealing to service providers as they race against the competition to offer new services and drive down operational expenditures," observed Sonus Networks CTO Kevin Riley in a recent blog post. "Service providers are eager to virtualize in any way possible and we feel that NFV has finally matured enough to see initial deployment in the service-provider space in 2015 followed by widespread on-ramp in 2016."
Uptake of NFV does seem to be gearing up. Huawei, for instance, just launched a lab, the NFV Open Lab, in Xi'an, China. VMware, HP and Red Hat China are among its collaborators at the facility, which was built to support work on multi-vendor interoperability and integration complexity, as Light Reading's Robert Clark Noted.
The takeaway: NFV has long trailed SDN in notoriety and interest from service providers. While it may not quickly catch up with SDN on these fronts, service providers appear to be increasingly receptive to it and could roll out additional labs for NFV testing and validation purposes.