Why Network Function Virtualization Should Be On MSPs’ Radar
Managed service providers (MSP) have been watching the massive amount of money that is going into the research and development of network function virtualization (NFVs) with a tremendous amount of interest. After all, anything that promises to eliminate the thousands of appliances that clutter networks today offers a lot of potential in terms of reducing the cost of being an MSP. The good news is that days of NFVs being more theory than reality appear to be over.
Masergy, a provider of network services delivered via the cloud, has begun deploying NFV technology at the edge of its network using an appliance from Overture that is based on Intel Atom processors. Running on top of that appliance are instances of Brocade Vyatta 5600 vRouter and Fortinet FortiGate-VM firewall virtualized network functions (VNFs) software that eliminates the need to deploy physical routers and firewalls at the edge of the network.
While NFVs might not be ready to handle the demanding requirements of a data center environment, Masergy CTO Tim Naramore said they are more that capable at this point of handling the requirements associated with a remote branch office. As such, Naramore said that Masergy is making use of an Overture 65vSE VNF compute node platform and a Data Plane Development Kit (DPDK) provided by Intel manage VNF software via the Masergy Intelligent Service Control (ISC) portal. All Masergy has to do from there is a ship an appliance to the customer that just about anyone in that office has to do is find where to plug an Ethernet cable into that appliance.
The current popular conception is that NFV adoption will be driven by telecommunications companies that are investing millions of dollars in NFVs to transform how their networks operate. In reality, there’s already a class of MSPs that make use of the cloud to deliver network services. Given the architectures these MSPs have already put in place, it will be most of them will wind up being the first companies to deploy VNF software in production environments.
In terms of both the cost of the equipment they no longer have to acquire and the total cost of managing their networking environments, MSPs that embrace NFV technology early are clearly going to enjoy a substantial competitive advantage. Conversely, MSPs that are slow to make the transition to NFV technology will find themselves staring into the face of obsolescence much sooner than they think. In short, we’ve reached that point where MSPs need to make a major technology investment decision today if they truly want to continue to be around tomorrow.