While Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) is starting to show traction in enterprises and for MSPs, there is still a lot of guesswork involved to be a viable solution. Enter a new class of products categorized as “Network Functions Platforms,” which hints at something to do with Network Functions Virtualization. A deeper dive in this article will certainly help clarify this new solution category and its intended use cases and benefits.
The takeaway is that there is a clear interest in NFV on the part of enterprises, driven by the need to become more ‘cloudy’ and software-centric in their approach to supporting internal IT requirements. For vendors that can provide solutions that mitigate inhibitors, there is a tremendous opportunity to help customers make NFV adoption a reality.
Enter the Network Functions Platform, a virtualized hardware appliance, purpose-built to run networking and security virtual appliances (VAs) and virtual network functions (VNFs), while addressing the most pressing challenges to enterprise NFV adoption.
Think of the Network Functions Platform as a virtualized server on steroids. Because networking and security workloads are compute-intensive, compared to application workloads, the Network Functions Platform is engineered from both a hardware and software perspective to deliver scalable and guaranteed performance.
Importantly, the Network Functions Platform is also designed to mitigate organizational disruption and skill deficit concerns by abstracting and automating tasks that otherwise would entail complicated server, virtualization and network configuration. Let’s look at three critical NFV inhibitors and how they are resolved by Network Functions Platforms.
Another key concern regarding NFV is the need to establish demonstrable ROI. Perhaps the best way to build a business case for NFV adoption is to look at two common use cases where NFV can be deployed to good and measurable effect. In the first example, we’ll look at using a Network Functions Platform as an alternative to traditional load balancing/ADC in a typical enterprise deployment. In the second example, we’ll look at using Network Functions Platforms at an MSP/CSP for the purpose of offering managed or cloud infrastructure services.
Network Functions Platform for App Delivery
Envision a situation in which 16 load balancers are deployed in support of eight enterprise applications. Costs include expensive hardware as well as 16 rack units of space and the power and cooling required to keep the hardware operational. In contrast, by using two 1RU Network Functions Platforms, the same number of virtual load balancers can be deployed at the same level of performance. Cost-effective virtual load balancing is purchased in place of expensive iron, and rack space, power and cooling costs are also significantly reduced. Moreover, the enterprise can now provision load balancing services on-demand – scaling up and scaling out instances as needed to meet evolving load balancing and app delivery requirements.
Network Functions Platform for MSP and CSPs
Networking and security cloud infrastructure services based on general-purpose virtualized servers may meet the needs of SMB and mid-market customers; however, this deployment model may not hold up as MSPs and CSPs target larger enterprise customers. In this case, the MSP or CSP would likely need to deploy traditional big iron appliances to meet customer demands for performance SLAs. Serving enterprise customers using this approach requires significant upfront investment and often provides little margin for profit. In contrast, the Network Functions Platform allows MSPs and CSPs to continue running VAs and VNFs by hosting them on a purpose-built platform that delivers hardware-like guaranteed performance. In addition, MSPs and CSPs benefit from on-demand provisioning and the ability to seamlessly introduce new services, scale-up and scale-out as needed, and purchase and deploy VAs and VNFs in direct proportion to customer demand.
In summary, the Network Functions Platform is designed to provide enterprises, as well as MSPs and CSPs, with a seamless migration path towards NFV. By solving the pressing concerns inhibiting NFV adoption, and by providing immediate use cases that generate rapid ROI, this new category of product is poised to play an important role in transitioning those who are currently analyzing NFV strategies and vendors into businesses that have deployed NFV in their production networks.
Paul Andersen is the Senior Director of Marketing at Array Networks. He has over 17 years’ experience in networking, and has served in various marketing capacities for Cisco Systems, Tasman Networks and Sun Microsystems. Learn more about Array’s AVX Series Network Functions Platform here.
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The Network Functions Platform is designed to provide enterprises, as well as MSPs and CSPs, with a seamless migration path towards NFV.
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