Network Functions Virtualisation


Telecoms networks contain an increasing variety of proprietary hardware appliances. To launch a new network service often requires yet another appliance and finding the space and power to accommodate these boxes is becoming increasingly difficult, in addition to the complexity of integrating and deploying these appliances in a network. Moreover, hardware-based appliances rapidly reach end of life: hardware lifecycles are becoming shorter as innovation accelerates, reducing the return on investment of deploying new services and constraining innovation in an increasingly network-centric world.

Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV) aims to address these problems by evolving standard IT virtualization technology to consolidate many network equipment types onto industry standard high volume servers, switches and storage. It involves implementing network functions in software that can run on a range of industry standard server hardware, and that can be moved to, or instantiated in, various locations in the network as required, without the need to install new equipment. This technology could provide significant benefits for network operators and their customers:

  • Reduced operator CAPEX and OPEX through reduced equipment costs and reduced power consumption
  • Reduced time-to-market to deploy new network services
  • Improved return on investment from new services
  • Greater flexibility to scale up, scale down or evolve services
  • Openness to the virtual appliance market and pure software entrants
  • Opportunities to trial and deploy new innovative services at lower risk

Network Functions Virtualisation is highly complementary to Software Defined Networking (SDN). These topics are mutually beneficial but are not dependent on each other. Network functions can be virtualised and deployed without an SDN being required and vice-versa.

Our Role & Activities

Seven of the world's leading telecoms network operators initiated a new ETSI Industry Specification Group for NFV. These have been quickly joined by over 200 other network operators, telecoms equipment vendors, IT vendors and technology providers. Please consult the full list of NFV members and participants on the ETSI Portal for more information.

The purpose of the NFV ISG is to define the requirements and architecture for the virtualisation of network functions and to address the technical challenges which include:

  • Ensuring that virtualised network platforms will be simpler to operate than what exists today.
  • 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 misconfiguration.
  • Maintaining network stability and service levels without degradation during appliance load and relocation.
  • Ensuring the appropriate level of resilience to hardware and software failures.
  • Enable 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 analysis for future technical specifications & standards in ad hoc standardisation organisation & groups to be identified or created at ETSI and other relevant standards development organisations.

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 our This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .


NFV delivered its first specifications in October 2013. The following is a list of recently published ETSI specifications on Network Functions Virtualisation.  Please refer to the ETSI Work Programme to find further related specifications.

Standard No. Standard title.
GS NFV 001 Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV); Use Cases
GS NFV 002 Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV); Architectural Framework
GS NFV 003 Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV); Terminology for Main Concepts in NFV
GS NFV 004 Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV); Virtualisation Requirements
GS NFV-PER 002 Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV); Proofs of Concepts; Framework


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

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Happy Birthday ETSI NFV!

Enjoy the video of the NFV social event in Malaga – celebrating the achievements of year 1 and looking at the hopes and plans for year 2

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Embracing NFV: Open Networking and Open Daylight Summits

Over the past few weeks two major events took place in the space of Software Defined Networking: the first was the Open Daylight Summit (ODS) and most recently the fourth installment of the Open Networking Summit (ONS). Both events were held in the Heart of Silicon Valley in the Santa Clara Convention Center.

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NFV one year later

ETSI NFV ISG leadership weighs in on the state of NFV

The fifth meeting of the ETSI Network Functions Virtualization Industry Specification Group (ETSI NFV ISG) marked the one year anniversary of NFV, and a significant turning point for the organization.

ETSI members and delegates descended upon one of the oldest, and southernmost large cities in Europe- Malaga, Spain for NFV#5, as the NFV ISG took another step towards implementation. Interest in NFV remains sky high; meeting participation was capped at 250, and over-subscribed, for the capacity of the venue.

Way back in January, 2013, a group of NFV visionaries of 60 organizations, held the first meeting of the ISG at ETSI HQ on the Cote d’Azur. Since that time, the ISG has made considerable progress:

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Don Clarke speaks to The Register on NFV

Don Clarke, chairman of the NFV ISG Network Operator Council (NOC) was recently interviewed by The Register in an article providing an overview of the NFV concept.

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Video from NFV#4, October 2013 at Sunnyvale

Special report - ETSI shaves years off NFV development time.

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Highlights of the ISG#04 meeting

The fourth ETSI ISG NFV plenary meeting was held on the 30th October to 1st November 2013, in Sunnyvale, USA, and was kindly hosted by Juniper and co-sponsored by IBM.

A new ISG NFV record was set, seeing 350 delegates participating to the busy NFV plenary sessions. Indeed such is the popularity of the NFV meetings especially when held in Silicon Valley, that registration had to be capped. Growth of membership is still high, and 14 additional companies joined ISG NFV in the weeks preceding the NFV#04 meeting, taking total membership to 170 individual companies.

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