< back to overview

NFV: One Year Later

Feb 25, 2014

ONF’s Marc Cohn takes a look back at the first year of Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) and the progress made to date.

The fifth meeting of the European Telecommunications Standards Institute Network Functions Virtualization Industry Specification Group (ETSI NFV ISG) marked the one year anniversary of NFV, and a significant turning point for the organization.

ETSI members and delegates descended upon one of the oldest, and southernmost large cities in Europe- Malaga, Spain for NFV#5, as the NFV ISG took another step towards implementation. Interest in NFV remains sky high; meeting participation was capped at 250, and over-subscribed, for the capacity of the venue.

Way back in January, 2013, a group of NFV visionaries of 60 organizations, held the first meeting of the ISG at ETSI HQ on the Cote d’Azur. Since that time, the ISG has made considerable progress:

  • Diverse participation
  • The Network Operator’s Council (NOC), the advisory panel guiding the effort now consists of 28 network operators, representing telecommunications and cable industries
  • 184 organizations are now participating
  • Major DeliverablesThe NFV ISG has published four end-to-end NFV specifications
  • Global call for Proof of Concepts
  • NFV CommunicationsA new NFV website has been operationalized- www.etsi.org/nfv
  • A new NFV Blog was introduced: http://www.etsi.org/technologies-clusters/technologies/nfv?tab=3
  • Many webinars, presentations, and analyst briefings
  • ETSI NFV ISG Chair Prodip Sen (Verizon) said: “It is hard to believe that it’s only a year since we started this effort, and that in this year we now have solutions consistent with our approach, and have generated multi-vendor interoperability efforts spanning many of the use cases we have specified. The degree of collaboration in this forum is unprecedented, and is helping us rapidly realize the NFV vision.”


As Marco Stura (Ooredoo) representing the latest operator to the join NFV ISG commented: “NFV is offering the framework and tools to greater improve operational efficiency and lower the costs for deploying network services going forward. Ooredoo recognize the importance of NFV and we are proud to be the first Middle East Group to join ETSI NFV ISG.” 

Following the global call for Proof of Concept (PoC) in July, 2013, the NFV ISG has accepted 9 Proof of Concepts, spanning over half of the NFV Use Cases defined by the ISG.

These PoCs exemplify the transition of the NFV ISG from specification to implementation. Each PoC consists of multi-vendor teams including at least one operator, and multiple NFV technology providers, including hardware, software, and silicon vendors. The NFV ISG encourages interested parties to submit new PoC proposals based on the freely available PoC framework. Table I below summarizes the NFV PoCs accepted by the NFV ISG to date.

Table I- NFV Proof of Concepts (as of February, 2014)

NFV ISG PoC NFV Use Case Operators Vendors
CloudNFV Open NFV Framework Use Case #5 Virtualization of the Mobile Core and IMS Sprint
Enterprise Web
Service Chaining for NW Function Selection in Carrier Networks Use Case #2
Virtual Network Function as a Service (VNFaaS)
Use Case #4
Virtual Network Forwarding Graphs
NTT Cisco
Virtual Function State Migration and Interoperability Use Case #1
NFV Infrastructure as a Service (NFVIaaS)
Multi-vendor Distributed NFV Use Case #2
Use Case #4
Virtual Network Forwarding Graphs
CenturyLink Certes
E2E vEPC Orchestration in a multi-vendor open NFVI environment Use Case #1
Use Case #5 Virtualization of the Mobile Core and IMS
Virtualised Mobile Network with Integrated DPI Use Case #2
Use Case #5 Virtualization of the Mobile Core and IMS Use Case #6 Virtualisation of Mobile base station
Telefonica HP
Wind River
C-RAN virtualisation with dedicated hardware accelerator Use Case #6 Virtualisation of Mobile base station China Mobile Alcatel-Lucent
Wind River
Automated Network Orchestration Use Case #1
Deutsche Telekom Ericsson
VNF Router Performance with DDoS Functionality Use Case #2


Many of the world’s largest carriers are participating in the public PoCs, including AT&TBTCenturyLinkChina MobileDeutsche TelekomNTTSprint, and Telefonica. A who’s-who of leading telecommunications OEMs, semiconductor manufacturers, and software partners are supporting the NFV PoCs as well.

We are very pleased with the industry response to our global call for NFV Proof of Concepts,” commented Don Clarke (BT), Chair of the NFV ISG Network Operator Council. “We are looking forward to more PoC proposals appearing during 2014.”

An agenda item of particular interest to many pertains to the future of the NFV ISG. When originally formed in Q42012, ETSI stipulated that the NFV ISG assume a lifetime in 24 months, formally winding down in February, 2015 (after the NFV#9 meeting).

Uwe Michel (Deutsche Telekom) NFV ISG Vice-Chair addressed the plenary with initial thoughts on how NFV will progress in 2015 and beyond. Uwe noted “It is important to provide clarity to the industry on the plans to drive NFV implementation over the long-term.”

To accelerate the transition from requirements to implementation, the NFV ISG is considering how to create reference implementations that capitalize on open source software. In addition, the NFV ISG is actively influencing relevant Standards Bodies and Industry Forums to satisfy NFV requirements.

A new NFV Steering Board (NSB) is proposed to replace the current working group structure to streamline the organization, decision-making and operational process. In addition, focused task forces are proposed to address specific tasks and rapidly produce results, in a departure from the traditional telecommunications standardization model.

NFV ISG NOC member Margaret Chiosi (AT&T) observed: “NFV must overhaul the traditional standards adoption process, which typically requires years before implementations are available. We are seeking a Fast Fail Forward model that enables standards and their implementations to be iteratively developed, similar to the highly-successful open source software model.

Technical coordination responsibility will be within the proposed NSB. Current Technical Steering Committee (TSC) Chair Diego Lopez (Telefonica) commented “It is essential that we leverage our strong core technical expertise and collaborative relationships cultivated in the ISG over the past year. Our charter will evolve to quickly address implementation and operational challenges.”

Current TSC Vice-Chair Tetsuya Nakamura (NTT DOCOMO) also shared: “As NFV products and solutions emerge there will need to be greater attention to non-functional requirements, such as availability, scalability, portability, and performance. The TSC will play a vital role in coordinating such activities.”

At the next meeting of the NFV ISG in Okinawa in May, the NFV ISG plenary will be asked to approve the future direction for NFV, which will be refined throughout 2014. While a number of valid issues have been raised, the proposal appears to offer a solid baseline for further discussions.

NFV is gaining significant momentum in the industry. In response, the NFV ISG has set an aggressive timescale to release the initial set of technical documents in November, 2014. With the involvement of the world’s leading operators and technology vendors, the prospects for success are very encouraging.

Software-Defined Networking (SDN) and NFV are complementary initiatives, and the Open Networking Foundation (ONF) and ETSI NFV work closely together to promote the advancement of standards with the long-term benefits of end users in mind.

– Marc Cohn, Market Education Committee Chair, ONF