Today’s networks are overly complex, partly due to an increasing variety of proprietary, fixed-function appliances that are unable to deliver the agility and economics needed to address constantly changing market requirements. This is because network elements have traditionally been optimized for high packet throughput at the expense of flexibility, thus hampering the development and deployment of new services. Another concern is that rapid advances in technology and services are accelerating the obsolescence of installed hardware; and in turn, hardware isn’t keeping up with other modes of feature evolution, which constrains innovation in a more network-centric, connected world.
In response, the industry has begun to develop more interoperable solutions per the principles outlined by Software-Defined Networking (SDN) and a complementary initiative, Network Functions Virtualization (NFV). At the heart of these two approaches is the decoupling of network functions from hardware through abstraction. The end result is software workloads will no longer be tied to a particular hardware platform, allowing them to be controlled centrally and deployed dynamically throughout the network as needed. Moreover, network functions can be consolidated onto standard, high-volume servers, switches and storage, further reducing time to market and costs for network operators.