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What are the top NFV platforms?

Networking expert Lee Doyle details the requirements for NFV infrastructure and the leading NFV platform options -- OpenStack and VMware's vCloud NFV.

As service providers report a number of successful production deployments of network functions virtualization, it is important to consider the infrastructure beneath it all -- and the available options. The leading NFV platforms are OpenStack and VMware's vCloud NFV. But service providers can choose from a number of OpenStack options, including sourcing from a supplier or open source internal development.

Use cases for NFV platform deployments vary widely and include wireless core networks, customer premises equipment, routing, security and the internet of things. During the second half of 2017 and throughout 2018, leading service providers will deploy NFV at scale with additional applications across their networks. 

Requirements for NFV infrastructures include scalable, reliable and low-latency software platforms for application virtualization. Service providers -- with their millions of users -- deploy data centers differently than the typical large enterprise or hyperscale cloud providers. NFV compute resources are distributed in tiers that include centralized cores, aggregation points and local points of presence.

NFV infrastructure has a number of requirements, including the following:

  • Customized IT standards to deliver high-performance network applications;
  • A broad application ecosystem -- through partnerships with dozens of independent software vendors and network equipment providers; and
  • The ability to integrate NFV applications within legacy network architectures and link to existing operational and billing systems.

NFV infrastructure software platforms

The primary OpenStack and VMware vCloud NFV platforms are detailed below.

OpenStack: OpenStack is a set of open source software tools for building and managing cloud computing architectures. It enables service providers to provision and orchestrate pools of data center resources across compute and storage. Service providers implementing OpenStack for NFV infrastructure include: AT&T, Verizon, XO Communications, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, NTT, SK Telecom, China Mobile Ltd., China Unicom, Deutsche Telekom, Swisscom, British Telecom Group and Telefónica. Service providers can buy OpenStack platforms from a number of suppliers, including Red Hat, Dell, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Ericsson, VMware and Mirantis, or deploy via internal development on open source.

VMware vCloud NFV: VMware is the leading provider of virtualization software to large enterprises, including the internal IT departments of most large service providers. VMware's vCloud NFV is an integrated, modular, multi-tenant infrastructure platform optimized for service providers deploying NFV. VMware has more than 80 NFV deployments with more than 45 service providers. It has certified more than 34 NFV applications for virtual network functions as part of its VMware Ready for NFV partner VNF-compatibility program. VMware's Integrated OpenStack enables service providers to quickly deploy NFV applications on OpenStack platforms.

Next Steps

New NFV infrastructure means changes in NFV security

How to face the top five challenges of managing OpenStack

What you need to know about choosing a virtual CPE platform

This was last published in June 2017

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What NFVi option would your organization choose, and why?
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