One VNF is Better than Four VNFs

Most service providers are continuing to invest significant capital and operational resources in selecting, on-boarding, testing and integrating various vendor-specific virtualized network functions (VNFs) as part of a long-term network functions virtualization (NFV) strategy. On-boarding VNFs is the process by which a VNF is made available on an NFV platform, permitting its life-cycle operations, such as deployment, scaling, healing, software upgrades and termination to be fully automated.

The transformation from traditional hardware-oriented managed services environment to software-defined and virtualized managed services is complex and challenging for managed service providers. The transformation requires integration with new orchestration systems, familiarization with DevOps tools for managing these virtual functions (VFs) and the integration of various VNFs onto x86 virtualized CPE (vCPE) platforms. All of this requires further integration, performance testing and portal development for every new VNF added.

VNF functions are a more efficient way for a service provider to deliver multiple or tiered network services to enterprise branch sites via a single physical appliance, simplifying and consolidating branch site infrastructure sprawl. For distributed enterprises, VNF-based managed services expedites provisioning time from months to days or hours. Leveraging software VNF functions also enables enterprises to easily order or change network functions in alignment with changing business requirements.

For a typical service provider that is offering a range of virtualized managed network services such as managed CPE router, managed SD-WAN, managed WAN optimization and a managed firewall, the path to migrating to a virtualized multi-VNF environment operating on a vCPE or a “white box” is no small task. In fact, according to a recent SDXcentral survey, 80 percent of service providers view managed SD-WAN services as the leading NFV use case in 2017.

To put the challenge into perspective, each of these four VNF functions could require a separate VNF to operate:

  • CPE router: vRouter VNF
  • SD-WAN: SD-WAN VNF
  • WAN optimization: WAN Optimization VNF
  • Stateful Firewall: vFirewall VNF

That’s FOUR unique VNFs on a vCPE platform, all of which must be qualified through the on-boarding process and integrated into the managed service provider’s billing and management OSS/BSS framework. In some cases, service providers have selected different VNF vendors for each of these four categories. This can lead to additional layers of complexity and begs the question. How do these multi-vendor VNFs perform when they are operating simultaneously on a single vCPE and for different configurations?

What if you could combine all four VNF functions listed above into a single VNF that is one software image that runs in a single virtual machine (VM)? Service providers would immediately be able to support a set of tiered, managed services that include managed routing CPE, managed WAN optimization, and integrate SD-WAN with managed firewall services.

That’s exactly what the Silver Peak Unity EdgeConnectSP SD-WAN solution delivers to service providers today. These four functions are available as ONE EdgeConnect VNF which simplifies the integration into the service provider’s orchestration system(s). This VNF supports a vRouter with BGP routing, a fully featured SD-WAN solution with SaaS optimization, WAN optimization and a stateful firewall all available as a single VNF. The single VNF also consumes a single virtual machine (VM) for the four functions in contrast to other vendor solutions that require a dedicated VM for each of the four functions.

A single VNF eliminates the significant testing, hardware costs, and expansive footprint of the hardware required to support a more traditional, multi-function VNF. It also simplifies the orchestration effort to support tiered managed services, which speeds time to service revenue.

In this world of complexity, one VNF that supports the equivalent of four VNF’s of managed services brings new meaning to the phrase, less is more.

About the author
Nav Chander
Nav Chander
Senior Director of Service Provider Marketing, Nav Chander is responsible for leading service provider marketing, positioning Silver Peak as a key enabling channel for service providers to expand managed service offerings, become more customer centric and identify new revenue streams. Prior to joining Silver Peak Chander served as the research manager for enterprise, telecommunications and networking at IDC where he led the US enterprise network services and worldwide networking infrastructure research program.