What MSPs Need to Know about OpenNFV

Network function virtualization (NFV) software takes the networking functions out of dedicated appliances and puts it on industry standard servers. One HP executive said the MSPs will start seeing this technology implemented in 2015. Here's what you need to know today.

Mike Vizard, Contributing Editor

October 21, 2014

2 Min Read
Werner Shaefer vice president of the NFV business for HP
Werner Shaefer, vice president of the NFV business for HP.

Even though we’re still quite a way from the everyday usage of network function virtualization (NFV) software, Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) wants to make it clear that NFVs are a lot more than just theoretical computer science.

At the recent SDN and OpenFlow World Congress 2014 conference, HP demonstrated a number of implementations of NFV software, all developed under the auspices of the HP OpenNFV Program. These included NFV applications from 6Wind, Brocade, GENBAND, Intel, Israel Mobile and Media Association, Mellanox Technologies, Spirent, SK Telecom and Wind River.

Werner Shaefer, vice president of the NFV business for HP, says HP is trying to show that an ecosystem is starting to rapidly emerge around open NFV standards, which HP expects will accelerate the adoption of NFV software.

Simplifying the components of networking

The end game is a simplified approach. Designed to eliminate the need for many of the appliances that clog networks today, NFV software runs on either standard x86 servers or other types of commodity processors. In contrast, most network appliances are built around proprietary ASICs. The goal is to not only to reduce the cost of networking by eliminating the need for physical appliances, but to also make the overall networking environment more agile. Because those NFVs are software, that agility is achieved by turning the network into a programmable resource that can be accessed via open application programming interfaces (APIs).

Shaefer says there are now 20 NFV projects under development and that additional OpenNFV Labs that serve as incubators for building NFV software that will be operated by Israel Mobile & Media Association in Tel Aviv, and SK Telecom in Seoul, South Korea, will open this fall. Existing HP OpenNFV Labs are located in Ft. Collins, Colo., Houston, and Grenoble, France.

NFV ETA for MSPs: 2015

Most MSPs are likely to first encounter NFVs on telecommunications networks beginning in 2015. Not too long after that, Shaefer says NFVs will become a standard element of distributed data centers located inside and out of the cloud.

Naturally, it will take a little while before all those physical appliances on the network start to disappear. The good news is that from the perspective of an MSP is that there should be a lot more NFV modules on those networks that will need to be managed than there ever was physical appliances. Given that evolution, MSPs would be well advised to start thinking in terms of how they are going to programmatically manage all those NFVs at scale.

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About the Author(s)

Mike Vizard

Contributing Editor, Penton Technology Group, Channel

Michael Vizard is a seasoned IT journalist, with nearly 30 years of experience writing and editing about enterprise IT issues. He is a contributor to publications including Programmableweb, IT Business Edge, CIOinsight and UBM Tech. He formerly was editorial director for Ziff-Davis Enterprise, where he launched the company’s custom content division, and has also served as editor in chief for CRN and InfoWorld. He also has held editorial positions at PC Week, Computerworld and Digital Review.

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