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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Which is Better – SDN or NFV?

Software-defined networking (SDN), network functions virtualization (NFV) and network virtualization (NV), are all complementary approaches. They each offer a new way to design deploy and manage the network and its services:

  • SDN – separates the network’s control (brains) and forwarding (muscle) planes and provides a centralized view of the distributed network for more efficient orchestration and automation of network services.
  • NFV - focuses on optimizing the network services themselves. NFV decouples the network functions, such as DNS, Caching, etc., from proprietary hardware appliances, so they can run in software to accelerate service innovation and provisioning, particularly within service provider environments.
  • NV – ensures the network can integrate with and support the demands of virtualized architectures, particularly those with multi-tenancy requirements.


SDN, NFV and NV each aim to advance a software-based approach to networking for more scalable, agile and innovative networks that can better align and support the overall IT objectives of the business.  It is not surprising that some common doctrines guide the development of each. For example, they each aim to:

  • Move functionality to software
  • Use commodity servers and switches over proprietary appliances
  • Leverage programmatic application interfaces (APIs)
  • Support more efficient orchestration, virtualization and automation of network services

SDN and NFV Are Better Together

These approaches are mutually beneficial, but are not dependent on one another.  You do not need one to have the other. However, the reality is SDN makes NFV and NV more compelling and visa-versa.  SDN contributes network automation that enables policy-based decisions to orchestrate which network traffic goes where, while NFV focuses on the services, and NV ensures the network’s capabilities align with the virtualized environments they are supporting. The advancement of all these technologies is the key to evolving the network to keep pace with the innovations of all the people and devices its connecting.

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