Industry Specification Group (ISG) Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV) Activity Report 2023

Chair: Yoshihiro Nakajima, NTT DOCOMO

Supporting the development of an open, interoperable and mature industry ecosystem for virtualized network functions running on cloud infrastructures. 

A key enabler for the success of 5G – and relevant to other telecoms network architectures – Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV) consolidates heterogeneous network equipment types onto standard IT servers, switches and storage. NFV is an essential aspect of modern network design, simplifying roll-out of new services while reducing deployment and operational costs.

With the support of dozens of organizations worldwide, the goal of ETSI’s Industry Specification Group (ISG) on NFV is to create specifications that can accommodate today’s and tomorrow’s network requirements. The purpose of ISG NFV is to facilitate the industry transformation and the development of an open, interoperable, ecosystem enabling managing the lifecycle of virtualised network functions hosted on independently deployed and operated NFV infrastructure platforms, which can be distributed across various locations (e.g. centralized data centres, edge clouds, end‑user premises).

The group’s primary responsibility is to address new functional and operational requirements brought by advances in cloud-native technology, network resources management and orchestration, network connectivity technologies, hardware and other infrastructure resources management, virtualization and cloud technologies, as well as new use cases (e.g. for industry verticals, and for vRAN) and operational models. It is also addressing additional requirements for NFV technologies brought by the evolution of telecommunications networks, notably in relation to 5G and subsequent generations.

ISG NFV uses a system of incremental Releases to structure its work programme:

Release 3

Release 3 was formally closed by the end of November 2023. The group continued to maintain core specifications and the protocol and data model work, including the specification of APIs for managing NFV‑MANO and NFV‑MANO policies as well as conformance testing specifications for these APIs.

Release 4

With the acceleration of NFV-based deployments triggered by the introduction of 5G systems – especially core network – areas addressed in Release 4 include: evolution of NFV framework to support new cloudification and virtualization technologies; increased support for automation; and novel management architectural styles and operationalization aspects, leveraging virtualization characteristics to simplify deployments. The group’s development of Release 4 specifications was effectively concluded during 2023 with deliverables addressing technological advances such as 5G, containerization, cloud-native design, service-based architectures and data analytics.

Release 5

Besides developing functionalities introduced in earlier iterations, Release 5 embraces broader industry, for example by extending the NFV framework to the RAN domain. Release 5 considers faults and alarms modelling, as well as studies on VNF configuration, energy efficiency aspects, enhanced container networking, flexible VNF deployment, support for RAN virtualisation and reliability evaluation for cloud-native VNFs. During the year this work included studies on enhanced container networking, network connectivity integration and operationalization, multi‑tenancy enhancement for NFV-MANO, service based architecture for NFV‑MANO and VNF generic management functions.

Release 6

The collection of proposals for Release 6 technical features continued during the year. This acceleration of activities was reflected in the adoption of a large number of new Work Items, with first published deliverables anticipated in 2024. 

See all specifications and other deliverables published by ISG NFV during 2023 here

See the full list of ISG NFV Work Items in development here.

White Papers

The occasion of the group’s 10th anniversary (see below) was marked by the publication of two white papers:

ISG NFV participants also contributed to a further white paper, published in March:

  • ETSI White Paper No. 56 - Unlocking Digital Transformation with Autonomous Networks: ETSI perspectives and major achievements.


ISG NFV members participated in a number of ETSI-organized events during the year, notably:

  • Evolving NFV towards the Next Decade - Celebrating the 10th Anniversary of ETSI NFV (Sophia Antipolis, March)
  • O-RAN alliance and ETSI NFV Joint Workshop (Osaka, June)
  • ETSI NFV Telco Cloud-native Roundtable (at MWC Shanghai, June)
  • ETSI NFV Telco Cloud-native Executive Roundtable (at NFV#43 Plenary, Copenhagen, September)

The group and its activities were also represented at other industry events including:
NetworkX; ETSI Security Conference; FutureNet Asia; and Cloud Native Telco Summit.

Celebrating 10 years of NFV

Since the inception of NFV a decade, the telco industry and the way that telecom networks are deployed and operated has radically changed. NFV has expanded its application environments, acting as a facilitator of network transformation and as a key enabler for technology evolution. These include 5G consolidation and further evolution, the use and integration of non-public networks, and edge environments. The achievements of ISG NFV have been a major element of this transformation in the last decade.

To celebrate the group’s 10th anniversary, the ‘Evolution of NFV towards the next decade’ conference held at Sophia Antipolis in March provided a unique opportunity for the NFV community to reflect on achievements in the past ten years. Carriers, vendors, SDOs representatives, and stakeholders from across the ecosystem came together to debate on challenges and opportunities. They also addressed how to increase the cooperation between various SDOs and the open-source communities to enhance interoperability and to smooth the deployment of cloudified network telecom functions. Global telecom operators shared their experience on NFV deployments for 4G and 5G, while sessions discussed topics including security in cloud-based deployments, the need to solve interoperability issues between various standards and open-source solutions, and NFV’s role as a pillar for the telecommunications industry and network transformation. A focus on partnerships and collaborations saw speakers from Open Infrastructure Foundation, LFN, 3GPP SA5, other ETSI ISGs, ETSI OSM, O-RAN WG6 and NGMN share views on the cooperation between standards and open-source communities.

Cooperation with other organizations

During 2023 ISG NFV continued its regular cooperation with other ETSI groups, including ISG MEC, ISG ENI, ISG ZSM, SDG TFS and SDG OSM, while maintaining links with 3GPP SA5, OASIS TOSCA, CNCF, NGMN, O-RAN Alliance, GSMA and ITU‑T SG11/SG13 and TMForum. Ongoing collaboration with open source projects and communities includes OpenStack and the Linux Foundation (and its projects).