The duality of NFV - Virtualization is here, but hardware still has its place

As I reflect on my remarks for this year’s Symposium, I am struck by the essential duality that is implied by innovation. When you innovate, improve or invent something new, you often make something else potentially obsolete – or at the very least force a re-look at the possibilities. This is the duality that our industry has been grappling with in recent years as it moves toward virtualization. Are software-based, virtualized network functions meant to run on x86 servers the future?  What role does this imply for dedicated hardware functions that currently handle the massive traffic loads throughout today’s networks?

It is not an understatement to say SDN and NFV are a seismic shift in the way service providers think about their networks. Indeed, SDN and the virtualization of network functions will be seen as one of the industry’s defining moments – it will change the way our customers design and build their networks, and the way they offer services. 

We know operators will move some router functionality to software to improve agility, reduce cost and complexity. But we also understand that other services – those that are run with strict SLAs and with heavy packet processing requirements - will remain on hardware-based routers capable of delivering the highest performance, lowest cost and lowest power possible. The choice between two opposing network philosophies is not the answer. As with many technology innovations we will embrace a duality with each approach serving its purpose in the network.  So even as we embark on this year’s Tech Symposium by launching the industry’s most comprehensive set of edge routing software functionality – the Virtualized Service Router (VSR) - we will also commit to further extend our purpose-built hardware router offer.

By employing this mix – or hybrid solution – operators can evolve networks at their own pace. They can test services – starting small and growing big as demand grows without huge outlays in time, costs and other resources – the main barriers to service introduction. And they can offer service support in short-bursts, where it’s needed – all the while meeting strict SLA’s using the ultra-powerful hardware routers in their network.

We firmly believe in a multi-faceted approach to virtualization in order to optimize the network.

Our position is not to force a false choice between virtual and physical but rather to embrace the best of both and put it into the hands of our customers. This means pairing the speed and agility of NFV/SDN functionality with the raw processing power of hardware-based router functionality to drive network performance. We know this resonates with customers and we’re excited to share it with you over the coming days.

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