Virtualizing a network can be best defined as abstracting network resources from traditional hardware delivery to a software one. With the rapidly changing technology, we are moving towards virtualizing our networks to get precise and accurate services with minimum error possibilities.
And though there has been much talk about the power of bringing virtualization to the network, Software Defined Networking (SDN) and Networks Function Virtualization (NFV) are becoming the most popular topics of debate. But due to some of their similarities in network approaches, confusion ensues now and again.
So, to get a clear perspective of these two similar yet different networking approaches, we will discuss their differences and what makes them so popular.
Software-Defined Networking or SDN aims to manage networks by separating the control plane from the forwarding plane. Basically, in this type of networking architects and administrators use software to configure and manage network functions via a centralized control point.
SDN allows the network to be programmed by separating the system that is going to decide that where should traffic be sent i.e., the control plane from the underlying system that pushes packets of the data-to-data plane.
SDN aims to separate network control functions from network forwarding functions and provides its users a way to managed network services with help of software that makes networks centrally programmable, and allowing them for faster configuration.
On the other hand, when we talk about Network Function Virtualization or NFV, this approach aims to decouple network functions from proprietary hardware appliances like routers and delivers equivalent network functionality without the need for specialized hardware.
Generally, this type of network architecture aims to accelerate service deployment for network operators and reduce cost by separating functions like firewalls or encryption from dedicated hardware and moving them to virtual servers.
NFV also allows network operators to implement network policy without caring about where to place functions in the network and how traffic can be routed through these functions.
Differences between SDN and NFV
To better understand these networking approaches, we will talk about some of the key differences seen.
- SDN architecture is mainly centered around data centers while NFV targets network as well as service operators.
- SDN abstracts physical networking resources like routers and moves the decision-making to a virtual network control plane. But NFV works to virtualize all physical network resources beneath a hypervisor, allowing the network to grow without the addition of more devices.
- SDN has OpenFlow as a communication protocol but NFV does not need any such protocol for their communication.
- The Main Business initiator for SDN is Corporate IT whereas, for NFV, service providers or operators work as their Business initiators.
- Open Network Foundation aims to develop various open standards, as well as vendor-neutral standards, for the communications interface defined between the control and forwarding layers of an SDN architecture. But NFV’s approach is driven by the ETSI NFV Working group.
- SDN’s main applications run on industry-standard servers or switches whereas NFV applications run on industry-standard servers only.
- SDN helps in reducing the cost of the network since there is no need for expensive switches & routers now. On the other hand, NFV helps in increasing the scalability and agility as well as speed up time-to-market to dynamically allot hardware a level of capacity to network functions needed for a particular time.