Sophia Antipolis, 30 May 2023
ETSI is pleased to publish its new White Paper on “Evolving NFV towards the next decade” written by delegates of the ETSI Industry Specification Group on Network Function Virtualization (ISG NFV).
Network functions virtualization (NFV) has been the catalyst of a radical change to the telecom industry, leading the transition from the traditional physical (hardware) network appliance into a new software-based virtualized network function era. Based on the use of general-purpose (commodity-off-the-shelf, COTS) servers and the deployment of network functions as software applications, NFV has broken through the technical challenges of software and hardware decoupling. The migration of network functions from dedicated physical appliances to distributed cloud infrastructure has revolutionized the way communications networks are developed, deployed, and operated nowadays.
In 2012 various international leading telecom service providers (network operators) jointly released the influential white paper about NFV’s concepts and vision and announced the beginning of a new era in the telecom industry. Since the creation of the ETSI ISG NFV the same year - the first standards organization of this kind in this domain - network operators, communications technology (CT) vendors, information technology vendors, small and medium-sized enterprises and other core contributors (e.g., from open source, academia and research communities) have been actively discussing and standardizing the NFV framework, which has become the telco cloud and virtualization network architecture of reference.
The mixture of IT and traditional telecom networks viewpoints in NFV have also brought a challenging, yet an important network transformation environment. Traditionally, network operators and CT vendors have become accustomed to the consensus-based standard development process, from which products are then developed and commercialized. However, the scenario of IT vendors and open source communities is different; these are based on a "code-first" process, whereby code is first developed and then contributed. These two ways of developing current telecom networks technology need to be brought together, as "sides of the same coin"; in this scenario, network operators, CT and IT vendors, and open source communities need to work together to bridge the gap between the two perspectives and facilitate broader support of ETSI NFV standards. For instance, while open source could further support and implement the standards as much as possible, standards could consider the "borrow-in philosophy" to take advantage of the core strength of open source in the specifications.
Ten years after the emergence of NFV, and after major investments and network deployments based on it, it is the right time to consider how the NFV framework can and will evolve. For this, it is important to understand and take actions to the requirements that telecom service providers consider for their telco cloud:
- A unified network management
- The usage of latest cloud-native, IT, automation and Artificial Intelligence (AI), open source software
- A multi-vendor interoperability and migration among different clouds.
Building on previous achievements, this White Paper analyzes different challenges and technology trends, and proposes several potential directions on how ETSI ISG NFV can evolve in the next decade. Aspects about API development, open source, NFV multi-cloud, unified management, declarative intent driven automation and AI are considered as key drivers for the evolution.
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