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NFV and SDN: core units of a modernized network
The change in networking has been relatively slow paced since the past few years. However, the advent of two new technologies, Software Defined Networks (SDN) and Network Function Virtualization (NFV) are all set to disrupt this space by rapidly transforming the network from physical to virtual. The networking landscape did not experience any innovation burst until today and at present, the traditional networking methods are being challenged with the arrival of NFV and SDN.
Previously on traditional architectures, management, control, and data forwarding were intrinsically linked to one another, resulting in an independent configuration of each network device through a cryptic command line interface, which made networking tough. This implied that even if a small change was needed to be made, each network device needed to be reconfigured independently. This is annoying for small networks and source of concern for medium to large networks. According to a research, it takes around four months for a large firm to implement a change in the entire network. This is not feasible as four months is quite slow for any business, in a period where businesses rely heavily on networks, to move ahead in the game. This is where SDN comes in and is defined as the separation of the management, control, and data forwarding planes of networks.
The control, data forwarding and management planes can be extricated from the underlying hardware and condensed into a software layer, which is detached from the hardware and centralized through a physical device that is deployed to the cloud. Changes to be made can be done on the graphical user interface, at the required speed and then propagated across the network.
SDN provides for improved security through micro-segmentation, as opposed to traditional networks that use VLANs and ACLs for coarse grained segmentation. It allows for the network partition in a much more granular and fine-grained level, improving security.
The network becomes more programmable with SDN. Application developers use APIs to connect to the network, so it can be dynamically configured by applications to reserve bandwidth, apply security or whatever the apps might require.
Although SDN is a crucial step towards a modernized network, however, services like security, routing and WAN optimization are still a part of the underlying hardware. NFV resolves this issue by segregating the network function from the hardware, virtualizing it and allow its operations on a virtual machine. NFV is akin to server virtualization where applications were run as virtual workloads on the software that lowered cost and increased hardware utilization. These benefits can be applied to the network as network services are running on virtual workloads.
NFV eases the service provider’s burden by granting flexibility to shift network functions from dedicated appliances to generic servers.
The agility of the network is increased by SDNs, which ensures its alignment with the rest of the business. NFV is a complementary technology that provides agility to network services. Both of these are core building units of a modernized corporate network.