Virtualizing your network functions and decoupling them from specific hardware can help you simplify operations, automate service delivery, and make money more quickly. Find out how to do it the right way in our latest Fundamentals installment.

At one level, NFV (Network Function Virtualization) is simply what it implies: Those network functions that must happen within the network are now (ideally) virtualized. This means that they are re-created as software versions. The benefits to doing something like this can be quite good, similar of course to the benefits we have learned to love and expect from server virtualization. Virtualizing network functions should be done to compliment the reality of our virtualized workloads as well…or put another way…we do this not because we can do it…but because we should. We do it so that we can gain benefit in some new area.

So what area(s) would that be?

I would cite the top three as: faster service delivery, higher resource utilization, and lower operating costs.

Cisco has a couple of different technology groups and so the idea of NFV might first bring ‘Service Provider’ to mind. Which makes sense…this is the primary place the industry has been looking to adopt this set of capabilities. The returns for a service provider can be enormous…for the exact same three reasons I cited. But that is NOT what we are talking about here. Specifically, we are talking Enterprise NFV.

Enterprise NFV is focused on bringing this SDN style functionality to your branch office capabilities. Any large enterprise is thinking like a service provider these days because the IT department (or whatever you might call it now) are providing business critical functions. The faster it can be done, the more it can be used and at the lowest cost..the better.

This is covered in the video…but just to make sure you don’t miss it, there are a couple of key components you should understand:

  1. Enterprise Service Automation (ESA)
    • Enterprise Service Automation is an application running on top of Cisco’s Enterprise controller, APIC-EM, that centrally orchestrates and manages network services, whether physical or virtual. ESA provides a standardized site design, zero-touch deployment, and automated monitoring of the Cisco Enterprise NFV solution and its network services.ESA - Consistent Management
  2. Virtual Network Functions (VNFs)
    • Cisco Enterprise NFV supports Cisco’s best-in-class virtual network functions as well as 3rd party non-Cisco services. License portability from physical Cisco devices to its software counterpart is possible through Cisco ONE, providing investment protection and an easy path to virtualization.
    • Robust services available with Enterprise NFV include Cisco routing (Integrated Services Virtual Router, or ISRv), Cisco firewall (ASAv), Cisco WAN acceleration (vWAAS), and Cisco wireless LAN controller (vWLC) functions. Cisco ONE provides license portability from physical devices to software components, protecting your investment and creating the easiest path to virtualization.NFVIS
  3. Enterprise NFV Infrastructure Software (NFVIS)
    • Cisco Enterprise NFV Infrastructure Software virtualizes and abstracts the network services from the underlying hardware. It provides the Linux-based virtualization layer (network hypervisor) that allows you to easily add VNFs to your network. An integrated hypervisor lets you create and run network functions as virtual appliances using a graphical user interface. Programmable, open APIs allow enhanced applications, such as the ESA app described earlier, to work in the virtual branch.
    • A Plug-and-Play (PnP) Application agent automatically connects to a central orchestrator in the APIC-EM, from which it downloads profiles to automatically set up WAN interface configuration details for a VNF and then lets the VNF boot right up with that configuration.
    • Lifecycle management capabilities built into NFVIS also manage your VNFs and monitor their performance.NFVIS supports service chaining, zero-touch deployment, life cycle management and programmable open APIs.

Don’t miss our live workshop on March 22. You can listen and watch the replay if you should miss it at this same link.

Enterprise NFV is part of Cisco’s Digital Network Architecture

Readers are leaders:

Special thanks to James Sandgathe and Liad Ofek for their technical guidance on this. I hope the metaphor we used in the animation is one that resonates with everyone. Feel free to let me know what you think.



Robb Boyd

Producer, Writer, Host