Network Virtualization 101
Nachman Shelef, CEO & Co-founder, ConteXtream – a BGV portfolio company shares his perspective on Network Virtualization Q: What is your definition of network virtualization and does this definition apply for Carriers or Enterprises or both? A: Network Virtualization, like other virtualization transformations is all about transitioning from dedicated resources per function to shared, pooled, common resources for all functions. For compute and storage virtualization this meant transitioning from dedicated compute and storage resources per application to shared, pooled, common compute and storage resources, allocated as needed when needed to support each application. For network virtualization this means transitioning from dedicated (and in some cases with proprietary hardware) networking hardware per function to shared, pooled, common compute resources and basic switching resources, allocated as needed when needed to support each network function. Traditional networking makes this transition very difficult, with three specific barriers: a) High functions are built into the plumbing (hardware) and are applied hop by hop, link by link, port by port and sub-port by sub-port. b) Identities are tightly coupled to locations. c) Control and forwarding are tightly integrated. Key to enabling this transition is to separate basic connectivity between locations from the higher functions that enable carriers to provide services per flow based on the context of the particular flow. This is done by separating functions from junctions and separating locations from identities. And by adding separation of control from forwarding we complete the disaggregation of networking nodes to allow network virtualization. We believe that while the basic concept behind network virtualization is similar for both the carriers and enterprises market segments but the requirements are quite different. For example, the scaling requirements of carrier network virtualization are very different than those needed in an enterprise network. Similarly carrier network virtualization may also require subscriber awareness, which is not needed in the enterprise scenario. Q: Do you position yourself as a – network virtualization company, Software defined networking company, Network function virtualization company? A: We are focused on helping service providers virtualize their network, improve service agility, while decreasing CAPEX and OPEX. We do this with our unique approach to carrier network SDN. There are other ways of virtualizing networks when going the NFV route, but our approach fully leverages the capabilities of SDN while creating a very flexible, scalable and programmable network. Using our solution, carriers can virtualize their network and it also gives them many network design options on how to scale their network functions. Q: What are the top 2-3 business problems that network virtualization solves? A: Based on our experience with the Tier-1 operators, network virtualization attacks the two biggest problems that carriers are facing:
- The first big business problem for any carrier is that traffic is growing more rapidly than the revenues. Operators have to keep adding capacity to cope with demand, but with existing network design paradigms and products the utilization of the resources is poor. Service providers have realized that the legacy methods of network design, deployment and the legacy products have reached their limits. The Internet players and advent of cloud technologies have shown that virtualization can help achieve better utilization of resources which is a major need of the day. This is driving the current interest in Network Function Virtualization. Service providers who adopt our solution will find that they can deploy capacity in both small and large chunks, they can be extremely granular, rapidly move around resources, achieve higher utilization etc.
- The carriers also need to compete with Over The Top players. They need to defend/increase their revenue stream with innovative services, and they need to do so with greater agility. Network virtualization with SDN creates a programmable network that significantly reduces the time needed to both experiment and/or roll-out new services.