Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) is an evolving network approach that enables the replacement of expensive dedicated hardware devices such as routers, firewalls and load balancers with software-based network appliances that run as virtual machines on industry-standard servers.
NFV decouples network functions from dedicated hardware devices and moves them to virtual servers, which consolidates multiple functions into a single physical server. This approach reduces costs and minimizes the need for truck rolls and hands-on maintenance, because the virtual appliances replace dedicated, hardware-based network appliances.
Network admins handle orchestration and administration functions through an operating system that coordinates the virtual appliances running on a network. Like virtual machines, virtual appliances can be selected and deployed based on the needs of the network.
This virtualization of network functions reduces dependence on dedicated hardware appliances for network operators. It also improves scalability, resource utilization (because a virtual machine can be freed up for use by some other application when a software appliance that was running on that Virtual Machine (VM) is no longer needed), and customization across the entire network.
NFV has a number of important advantages, including:
- Less space needed for network hardware
- Lower network power consumption
- Reduced network maintenance cost
- Simpler and faster network upgrades