Network Functions Virtualisation



In November 2012 seven of the world's leading telecoms network operators selected ETSI to be the home of the Industry Specification Group for NFV.

Now, nearly four years and 40 published documents later, we see a large community working intensely to continue developing the required standards for NFV as well as sharing their experiences of NFV implementation and testing.

The membership of ISG NFV has grown to over 290 individual companies including 38 of the world's major service providers as well as representatives from both telecoms and IT vendors.

The 2015 NFV Activity Report and the full list of NFV members and participants are available on the ETSI NFV Portal.

Building the Software-Defined Network

Modern telecoms networks contain an ever increasing variety of proprietary hardware. The launch of new services or network reconfiguration demands the installation of yet more equipment that in turn requires additional floor space, power and trained maintenance staff.

As the innovation cycles continue to accelerate, hardware-based appliances rapidly reach end of life. Simply having a hard-wired network with boxes dedicated to single functions is not the optimal way to achieve dynamic service offerings.

In the same way that applications are supported by dynamically configurable and fully automated cloud environments, so too must network design and implementation become more agile and able to respond automatically and on-demand to the dynamic needs of the traffic and services running over it.

Key enabling technologies for this vision include SDN (Software Defined Networking) and NFV (Network Functions Virtualisation). SDN and NFV are complementary but increasingly co-dependent in order for the benefits of software-defined networking to be fully realized.

Upcoming events

  • NFVIFA#40, 25-28 October, Bundang, Korea
  • NFVSOL#12, 25-27 October, Bundang, Korea
  • NFV#16, 12-15 December, Shenzhen, RPC
  • 1st NFV PlugTests, 23 Jan-03 Feb, Leganes (Madrid), Spain
  • NFV#17, 21-24 February 2017, Bilbao, Spain
  • NFV#18, 16-19 May, Sophia Antipolis, France

Our Role & Activities


The ETSI NFV ISG undertakes work in 2-year phases as agreed by the ETSI Director General.

Documents published during Phase 1 were referenced as ‘Release 1’ with subsequent tranches referenced as ‘Release 2’, ‘Release 3’ etc. Release 2 development is almost finalized (target = end Q2 2016) whilst Release 3 has just started.

Looking forward, the ISG will continue to develop specifications that meet the needs of the industry, and maintain its published documents. Progress in the industry will be monitored, including feedback from implementation, and the identification of gaps will be addressed.

NFV Phase 2

The need to produce normative specifications that can be used to enable end-to-end interworking of equipment and services forms a fundamental part ISG NFV Phase 2.

To drive the NFV work forward across the industry there is a strong demand to work with a number of key standards groups, open source communities and wider industry, in a coordinated way.

The recent work of ISG NFV is well known, but the future direction of the standards is currently being shaped in various forms across Europe and the USA as the industry and ETSI drives the NFV promise into network reality.

ETSI Industry Specification Groups are open to ETSI members and non-members alike, with different conditions depending on ETSI membership status. If you would like to participate in the NFV ISG, please contact the NFV support team.

NFV Phase 1

In the first 2-year phase, the initial focus of the NFV ISG was:

  • to drive convergence on network operator requirements for NFV
  • to include applicable standards, where they already exist, into industry services and products
  • to simultaneously develop new technical requirements with the goal of stimulating innovation and fostering an open ecosystem of vendors

The original vision outlined in the joint-operator white paper published in October 2012 was:

  • to define the requirements and architecture for the virtualisation of network functions
  • to address the technical challenges which include:
    • ensuring that virtualised network platforms will be simpler to operate
    • achieving high performance virtualised network appliances which are portable between different hardware vendors, and with different hypervisors
    • achieving co-existence with legacy hardware-based network platforms whilst enabling an efficient migration path to fully virtualised network platforms which re-use network operator BSS and OSS
    • management and orchestration of virtual network appliances (particularly alongside legacy management systems) while ensuring security from attack and configuration errors
    • maintaining network stability and service levels without degradation during appliance load and relocation
    • ensuring the appropriate level of resilience to hardware and software failures
    • enabling the creation of virtual network appliances which will run, ideally without recompilation, on any hypervisor and hardware configuration, and integrate “on the fly” into the network operators’ existing EMS, NMS, OSS, BSS and orchestration systems
    • requirement and gap analysis for future technical specifications & standards within ETSI and other relevant standards development organizations

An important milestone in the first two years was the publication of the first five ETSI Group Specifications (GSs) documents (October 2013).

Four of them were designed to align understanding about NFV across the industry. They cover NFV use cases, requirements, the architectural framework, and terminology.

The last document defined a framework for co-ordinating and promoting public demonstrations of Proof of Concept (PoC) platforms illustrating key aspects of NFV.


The following is a list of the 20 latest published ETSI specifications on Network Functions Virtualisation.

A full list of related standards in the public domain is accessible via the ETSI standards search. Via this interface you can also subscribe for alerts on updates of ETSI specifications.

For work in progress see the ETSI Work Programme on the Portal.

Standard No. Standard title.
GS NFV-IFA 010 Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV); Management and Orchestration; Functional requirements specification
GR NFV-SEC 003 Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV); NFV Security; Security and Trust Guidance
GS NFV-IFA 009 Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV); Management and Orchestration; Report on Architectural Options
GS NFV-REL 003 Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV); Reliability; Report on Models and Features for End-to-End Reliability
GS NFV-REL 003 Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV); Reliability; Report on Models and Features for End-to-End Reliability
GS NFV-IFA 004 Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV); Acceleration Technologies; Management Aspects Specification
GS NFV-IFA 005 Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV); Management and Orchestration; Or-Vi reference point - Interface and Information Model Specification
GS NFV-IFA 006 Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV); Management and Orchestration; Vi-Vnfm reference point - Interface and Information Model Specification
GS NFV-IFA 003 Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV); Acceleration Technologies; vSwitch Benchmarking and Acceleration Specification
GS NFV-SEC 006 Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV); Security Guide; Report on Security Aspects and Regulatory Concerns
GS NFV-SEC 010 Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV); NFV Security; Report on Retained Data problem statement and requirements
GS NFV-REL 004 Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV); Assurance; Report on Active Monitoring and Failure Detection
GS NFV-IFA 010 Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV); Management and Orchestration; Functional requirements specification
GS NFV-TST 001 Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV); Pre-deployment Testing; Report on Validation of NFV Environments and Services
GS NFV-IFA 002 Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV); Acceleration Technologies; VNF Interfaces Specification
GS NFV-EVE 004 Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV); Virtualisation Technologies; Report on the application of Different Virtualisation Technologies in the NFV Framework
GS NFV-EVE 003 Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV); Ecosystem; Report on NFVI Node Physical Architecture Guidelines for Multi-Vendor Environment
GS NFV-REL 005 Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV); Accountability; Report on Quality Accountability Framework
GS NFV-SEC 009 Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV); NFV Security; Report on use cases and technical approaches for multi-layer host administration
GS NFV-EVE 005 Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV); Ecosystem; Report on SDN Usage in NFV Architectural Framework

In addition to the published documents the ISG NFV makes all of the draft deliverables available for industry comment.

Phase 1 has been successfully completed and all documents were published early January 2013. Phase 2 is well under way with over 30 new Work Items. In addition to the technical work programme, members are focusing on 3 other areas: the start of the feature collection, the NFV ISG beyond 2016 and whether there will be some stage 3 standardization.


News, comments and opinions from ETSI’s NFV Industry Specification Group

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