How NFV (Network Function Virtualization) Will Accelerate Mobile Cloud Adoption

April 11, 2017

An infrastructure where processing and data storage takes place outside mobile devices can be referred to as a ‘mobile cloud’. By utilizing the computing and storage capabilities of the mobile cloud, computer applications can run on low resource mobile devices.

Virtualization and cloud are frequently used interchangeably. However, both of these are different concepts. Virtualization is the act of producing a virtual version of something, which includes but is not restricted to a storage device, virtual computer hardware platform, and operating system or computer network resources. Virtualization improves utilization of resources and enables you to pack more applications onto your infrastructure.

On the contrary, cloud computing delivers shared computing resources on demand via the internet or enterprise private networks. The cloud offers automated management, self-service capability, scalability, elasticity, and pay-as-you-go service that are not inherent in virtualization. However, virtualization makes it easy to achieve that.

For benefitting from a virtualized cloud environment, it is not enough to port your applications running on purpose-built or bare metal appliances to run on Virtual Machines (VMs). Virtualizing a complex mess will lead to a complex mess. A large part of Virtualized Network Functions (VNFs) are applications which have been optimized over the years to function in a scale-up environment, generally, an appliance with a  CPU, dedicated ASIC for packet processing and local storage.

In stateful VNFs, the states and packet processing units are combined but native cloud apps distinguish between data and application engineering where the states are saved on a centralized cloud platform. As NFV becomes mainstream and standards are recognized, vendors are likely to start selling solutions to smaller businesses that might not have the budget or requirement for specialized network appliances.

With current functions being virtualized, smaller organizations will benefit highly from features such as service chaining that enables application traffic to be redirected through CDN NFV solutions or WAN accelerators. Having this flexibility will enable an IT department to respond in a more agile manner to network service demands.

Possible Challenges

Transferring to virtualized networks will not be without hurdles or challenges. The new network has to accommodate current technologies and devices provided by numerous vendors. Operational procedures must be reconditioned to exploit the benefits of automation. Planning and network management are also impacted, as conventional approaches are refined by assuming services and static infrastructure. Another crucial addition is open source, whose consumption in networks is far behind the storage and computing domains.

Cloud networks should allow competent dynamic deployment and management of virtual machines that support changing and varied workloads. Enterprises are migrating to open alternatives, including open source cloud networks, the ones that are planning to develop hybrid and private clouds.

OpenStack offers open APIs that support a range of infrastructure and applications for networking. Major operators are hoping that NFV will reduce their dependence on purpose-built hardware and related management tools while enhancing service agility along with operational responsiveness through intelligence and automation.

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