The changing business models brought about by a change in today’s consumers, demands software-defined enterprises to adopt a holistic approach to innovation – connecting people, technology, and businesses. As enterprises shift to cloud, connectivity continues to remain at the fulcrum of the digital journey. New age connectivity, demands ICT teams to leverage enterprise networks just like a commodity- delivered on demand whenever and wherever required. And that’s exactly what next gen technology like Software Defined Networks (SDN) and Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) are here to do – make enterprise networks flexible, scalable and secure for the cloud age.
SDN and NFV: Transforming IT into a Service
The software-centric nature of enterprises, that allow IT teams to provision cloud networks for the edge or remote branches/locations, ensure bespoke customer and user experience and address sudden business requirements, seamlessly. Networking is no more hardware centric, expensive, and rigid.
Network Functions Virtualization and Software Defined Networking – both software-based architectures – have transformed enterprise networks – how a network is designed, deployed and managed. SDN separates the network control and forwarding plane providing a centralized view of the distributed network, while NFV focuses on decoupling the network functions.
SDN and NFV allow IT to seamlessly optimize cloud (as-a-service offers) and meet overall IT objectives. Both the technologies have made network agile, reduced CAPEX and OPEX, and have helped IT deliver at any scale flexibly. Both NFV and SDN, have allowed enterprises to accelerate innovation and provisioning of enterprise networks.
Delivering experience at Edge with SDN and NFV
To put simply, NFV and SDN empower IT teams, to add new services and modify existing network infrastructure without making any change in the physical networks. Enabling NFV and SDN necessitates a unique opportunity for enterprises to evolve further into a virtual world based on a kaizen DX strategy. This, in turn, makes enterprises more agile, flexible and customer focused. NFV and SDN have enabled IT to leverage vCPE and uCPE -virtualize the edge and deliver network services faster, by running services as software on generic hardware.
No matter how enterprise hubs are located- distributed globally, nationally or locally –NFV ensures the best customer/user experience, allowing an enterprise to shift WAN at the edge, branch, or location, close to customers. These hubs are key to develop Virtual Network Services (VNS). This further hosts the required infrastructure in line with how the virtual functions are deployed. Therefore location and deployment of the hubs are key for NFV and SDN to work seamlessly. The locations being closer to enterprise endpoints ensure flawless VNS, delivering higher end-user experience over the network.
Easy deployment and management of VNFs also got a role to play in enhancing end user experience. The central controller (UI), allow IT teams to select and remove new services and operate functions as per customer or business demands. Virtual Firewalls, Virtual Remote access, and virtual WAN acceleration are some of the VNFs enterprises often leverage. In short, both SDN and NFV are crucial components of the edge computing era and beyond.
Transition to 5G is Inevitable
Software-defined networking and network functions virtualization have already paved the path for 5G. The changing dynamics of user traffic demands connectivity for multiple devices for varied cloud applications. And this demand is expected to meet by the inevitable 5G. NFV and SDN address key challenges and complexities of the 5G ecosystem. For example Network slicing, one of the key aspects of 5G network architecture. Realizing the benefits offered by these network functions virtualization (NFV), software-defined networking (SDN), 5G and the internet of things (IoT), enterprises and CSPs are investing heavily in.
NFV infrastructure poised with SDN are transforming carrier network infrastructure (CNI) for CSPs. This has massively helped CSPs to create new business network services, make new revenue streams, and improve operational efficiency. “Communications SPs globally recognize the need to digitally transform their network infrastructure and build more customer-centric business models. Embracing software-defined networking (SDN) principles and deploying network functions in virtualized (NFV) form factors are a strategic necessity not only for carriers as they invest in their future but also for vendors supplying those solutions to the market,” says Rajesh Ghai, research director, Carrier Network Infrastructure research at IDC.
On the enterprise end, more IT teams are finding hybrid cloud ideal for their distributed architecture. And as the adoption of hybrid cloud increases, traffic is growing at the enterprise edge. With Edge connectivity becoming a prime concern, enterprises are not only boosting WAN capacity and redundancy but also adopting SDN (SD-WAN) and NFV. In the 5G ecosystem, both NFV and SDN enable distributed cloud by creating flexible and programmable networks.
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