data center researchThe telecom industry is getting serious about network function virtualization (NFV), according to an informal survey of attendees at the Ethernet & SDN Expo in New York last month conducted by telecom vendor RAD Data Communications and shared with Telecompetitor.

NFV aims to reduce the costs of operating service provider networks and streamline service providers’ ability to implement new services. The idea is to centralize network intelligence, which will control commodity networking hardware throughout the network. NFV is similar to, but distinct from software defined networking (SDN), which aims to separate the network control plane from individual network elements with similar goals.

Not surprisingly, lower total cost of ownership was the NFV benefit cited by the greatest number of respondents in RAD’s survey, followed by quicker time to market, network performance, fewer truck rolls and easier to perform upgrades.

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The most popular answer to the question “Where in the network do you see the biggest benefit of NFV?” was in the core network, followed by at the customer premises. “In data centers” and “at the network edge” tied for third place.

Respondents’ view of NFV was not totally rosy, however. When respondents were asked how concerned they were that the health of the network (congestion, latency, errors, etc.) will affect the performance of virtualized functions, the average rating was 6.5 on a scale of 1 to 10.

Overall, however, respondents were quite confident that NFV will deliver the benefits it purports to deliver, rating their confidence level at an average of 7 on a 10-point scale.

Considering that the survey was taken at an event with an SDN and NFV focus, overall interest in and optimism about NFV may be somewhat overstated. But more than half of respondents were service providers, including cable companies, who may be exploring NFV deployments. The high percentage of service provider respondents suggests that findings such as the benefits of NFV are representative of overall industry thinking.

Non-service provider respondents included utility companies, equipment vendors and financial institutions.

Asked when they plan to implement NFV, the most common answer was in one to two years, followed by 6-12 months and “not sure.”

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