When I entered this space about 3 years ago, the terms Software Networking, Software Defined Networking and SDN was on everyone’s lips. It was the next “Big Thing”.
I too tried to jump on the wave and understand what these terms meant. It did not go so well. I got caught in the vortex of the terminology storm. However, last year when I jumped on board the Brocade ship, I realized it was not just me but even customers were in the same boat. Thus began my journey of trying to untangle various components of the terminology storm.
I went through many articles from various vendors’ websites, analyst reports, YouTube videos in addition to listening to the lectures given by professors from various universities like Stanford, UC Berkeley and the information from the Standards Body itself. This is when I began to understand the terms and would like to share those learnings with all of you.
What is Software Networking?
It is the ability to deploy, provision, manage and monitor the network fabric via software. It is as simple as this.
Now having said this, different technologies were born like Software Defined Networking (SDN), Network Functions Virtualization (NFV), and others to deliver software networking.
This week I shall give an overview on NFV and next week I’ll give an overview on SDN. The reason being, currently NFV is a more prevalent software networking paradigm in the industry.
What is Network Function Virtualization (NFV)?
At a very high level in a layman’s term, NFV is virtualizing the network functions from Layer 3 to Layer 7, like routing, firewalls, and load balancers. Each of these layers is called a Virtual Network Function (VNF).
Now to clear the confusion of the difference between NFV and VNF: NFV is an architecture and VNF is a virtualized function.
The NFV architecture is based on the definition of the standards body, ETSI.
I recommend you read the NFV white paper written by ETSI that explains each and every term. From this architectural framework, you can see VNFs are just one of the components.
Various vendors are delivering different component(s) of this software networking architecture – hardware, VNFs, NFVI, MANO and others. Brocade delivers a suite of VNFs.