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Where does NFV deployment stand today?

Networking expert Lee Doyle explains network functions virtualization and the status of NFV deployment in 2015.

Network functions virtualization (NFV) has made significant progress in 2015, moving from lab tests to pilots and early deployments. The technology is proven, deployable at scale and reliable for a wide variety of applications, including Evolved Packet Core (EPC), customer premises equipment (CPE), analytics, deep packet inspection (DPI), security, IMS, policy, video servers and edge routing.

NFV is an initiative driven by large service providers to increase the use of virtualization and commercial servers. NFV combines these technologies, along with open software, to fundamentally change the construction and operation of networks.

Leading service providers deploy NFV

Many of the leading service providers, including AT&T, Telefonica, NTT, CenturyLink, Telecom Italia and China Mobile, have already experienced an NFV deployment for discrete point applications in their networks. A number of providers are also in the process of lab trials, evaluations and proofs of concept. As all of the leading service providers have large operational networks driving millions in monthly revenue, an initial NFV deployment generally focuses on greenfield applications, for new services, or applications that aren't directly involved in transmitting live data (voice/video). Some application examples include: virtual CPE, virtual EPC for machine-to-machine, network analytics, DPI and service assurance.

NFV, like other complex technologies, will take time to mature and achieve widespread deployment. NFV has strong support from leading service providers and is proving its value in substantial use cases. Telecom infrastructure will see a gradual NFV transformation as providers implement the technology in a phased approach, to ease migration challenges and maintain service reliability.

Next Steps

A guide to NFV implementation

What is the relationship between SDN and NFV?

The challenges of NFV deployment

Deploy SD-WAN and NFV in the data center

This was last published in August 2015

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Do you think NFV will reach widespread deployment, and if so, when?
We strongly believe that activity in the NFV arena will continue with more use cases and POC this year as folks prepare for their 2016 budgets. This activity will come from both telecom manufacturers, service providers and software development firms to drive innovations. A key element in this activity will be both cost savings and revenue enablement to enhance the customer experience. A critical item to this adoption will be the work around the northbound orchestration layer (including self-service portals, etc).