Guidance for the industry on future direction of NFV technology

ETSI Headquarters, Sophia Antipolis, France – 14 October 2013

ETSI has published the first five specifications on Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV). This is a major milestone towards the use of NFV to simplify the roll-out of new network services, reduce deployment and operational costs and encourage innovation.

These documents clearly identify an agreed framework and terminology for NFV which will help the industry to channel its efforts towards fully interoperable NFV solutions. This in turn will make it easier for network operators and NFV solutions providers to work together and will facilitate global economies of scale.

The IT and Network industries are collaborating in ETSI's Industry Specification Group for Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV ISG) to achieve a consistent approach and common architecture for the hardware and software infrastructure needed to support virtualised network functions. Early NFV deployments are already underway and are expected to accelerate during 2014-15. These new specifications have been produced in less than 10 months to satisfy the high industry demand – NFV ISG only began work in January 2013.

NFV ISG was initiated by the world's leading telecoms network operators. The work has attracted broad industry support and participation has risen rapidly to over 150 companies of all sizes from all over the world, including network operators, telecommunication equipment vendors, IT vendors and technology providers. Like all ETSI standards, these NFV specifications have been agreed by a consensus of all those involved.

The five published documents (which are publicly available via include four ETSI Group Specifications (GSs) designed to align understanding about NFV across the industry. They cover NFV use cases, requirements, the architectural framework, and terminology. The fifth GS defines a framework for co-ordinating and promoting public demonstrations of Proof of Concept (PoC) platforms illustrating key aspects of NFV. Its objective is to encourage the development of an open ecosystem by integrating components from different players.

Work is continuing in NFV ISG to develop further guidance to industry, and more detailed specifications are scheduled for 2014. In addition, to avoid the duplication of effort and to minimise fragmentation amongst multiple standards development organisations, NFV ISG is undertaking a gap analysis to identify what additional work needs to be done, and which bodies are best placed to do it.

Dr Prodip Sen of Verizon Communications, who is Chair of ETSI’s NFV ISG, said:
“These publications provide important guidance to the industry on the requirements that should be the basis for future development of NFV technology. ETSI’s openness to all players means that we have been able to involve everyone and reach a broad consensus. The documents, and the PoC framework in particular, send a strong message that we want to encourage multi-party interoperability and the growth of an open ecosystem.

“We have been especially concerned not to impede progress with a protracted standardisation effort in NFV ISG. As a result, these initial specifications have been developed in record time – under 10 months of intensive work. This is a major achievement for the industry. We hope to maintain this momentum and produce additional guidance soon.

“We challenge the industry to work with us to get NFV and related technologies into the mainstream of the networking industry, and to make them the mainstay of service provider networks.”

NFV ISG is open to non-members of ETSI. For information on how to participate, please contact

Notes for Editors

About Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV)

Network Functions Virtualisation first came to prominence in a white paper from a group of network operators published in October 2012 to coincide with the announcement of the formation of NFV ISG (

In this paper the authors described how network operators’ networks are populated with many different pieces of proprietary hardware. To launch a new network service often requires yet another type of hardware. Finding the space and power to accommodate these various boxes is becoming increasingly difficult, and the costs and level of skills needed are rising. In addition, hardware-based appliances rapidly reach the end of their life, often before achieving a return on investment. All this is inhibiting innovation.

NFV aims to address these problems by leveraging standard IT Virtualisation technology to consolidate many network equipment types onto industry standard high volume servers, switches and storage, which could be located in datacentres, network nodes or end-user premises. NFV is applicable to a wide variety of networking functions in both fixed and mobile networks.

NFV could provide significant benefits for both network operators and users:

  • 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. NFV ISG is co-operating with other bodies working on SDN.

About ETSI

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Press Contacts: 

Ultan Mulligan
ETSI Communications
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