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Network virtualization

Leveraging cloud hosting, software defined networking (SDN) and network function virtualization (NFV) to create competitive differentiation.

What is network virtualization?

In short, it’s everything the old network wasn’t. Cloud-hosted managed services (Telco cloud), software defined networking (SDN), virtualized network functions (NFV), and zero-touch operations supported by big data analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence.

What's more, it’s a whole new way of partnering with your customers. In the virtualized network, customers and service providers develop new, innovative services together. Rather than guessing what the next "killer app" will be, they jointly develop and refine their business needs into business enablers.

Agile services, customer managed services, DevOps development models, over-the-top (OTT) application providers, continuous innovation, and more. Gone are the days of trying to fit new service models onto existing, often outdated network and operations models.

To be successful in this dynamic environment, the virtual network requires greater visibility than ever before.

EXFO has the solutions and expertise you need to help you succeed.


How will network virtualization impact service providers?

Perhaps the biggest challenge, when dealing with network virtualization, is the fact that it’s... well, virtual. By its very nature, the network is no longer physically tangible and, therefore, not something easily visualized by humans. How do you find problems in a virtual network that’s constantly changing? How do you know that scaling a service won’t break the network? How do you measure service performance when you can’t be sure how it’s being routed? Having a clear picture of the performance of the ever-changing network and services is critical to successfully managing this transformation.

Monitoring service function chaining integrity

In a virtualized network, services are created at the service endpoints by chaining together virtualized network functions (VNFs) in a specific order to achieve the functionality specified in the service definition. When new services are created, it is essential that this service chain be validated to ensure compliance.

Additionally, due to the dynamic nature of virtualized networks, services – and hence their associated service chains – may be rerouted or moved to address areas such as efficiency, load balancing or recovery from a failure event. When this happens, it is equally important to verify that the service chains were rebuilt according to the agreed service specifications.

Having an orchestrated service assurance solution, embedded into the service chain itself, is the only way to ensure 100% visibility into service chain integrity during these events, or to detect failures in the service chain during normal operations.


How does network virtualization help service providers?

CAPEX reduction was once considered the primary driver for the move to virtualization. However, many carriers are discovering this is not actually the case. The real benefits come from OPEX savings, infrastructure and service elasticity and agility. Faced with a shrinking workforce and key skills deficit, virtual networks allow carriers to leverage automation, machine learning, artificial intelligence and big data to drive cost out of their operations and reduce the need for a highly skilled workforce. Does your network have what it needs to deliver a superior customer experience without breaking the bank?

Automation of complex or repetitive tasks

One of the key benefits of the transformation to virtualized networks is the increased reliance on automation to support just about every aspect of operations. The use of automation to manage complex tasks is particularly interesting given that service providers are being challenged to reduce OPEX. By automating service provisioning, network optimization, troubleshooting, root cause analysis and more, providers faced with a shrinking workforce and shortfall of skilled technical resources can continue to deliver high-quality services at a lower cost.

Additionally, since automated operations rely heavily on high-quality data to drive better decisions, being able to automate data measurement, correlation and storage means this highly repetitive function is done with greater consistency and quality, avoiding human error often associated with these functions.


The virtualized network promises to completely change the way networks are built, operated and maintained. They are software based, leverage SDN and NFV, and are highly scalable, service-agile networks that encourage open platform development with best-in-breed functionality. However, the fact they are virtual means managing them effectively will require new tools and processes that leverage automation, machine learning and artificial intelligence to address their increased complexity and dynamic nature. EXFO brings you the experience and solutions to enable greater network insight.

Network and service topology discovery

The virtual network is an invisible network. It’s a connected set of software functions residing in COTS hardware located in data centers and customer locations. Furthermore, it is an ever-changing network that scales up or down depending on demand and is continuously optimizing itself to address service and network issues. Keeping track of network and service topology has never been an easy task, but in the virtual network, it’s even more challenging.

Many operations functions require detailed knowledge of network and service topologies, and an updated view of the active inventory, to run effectively. Everything from provisioning to troubleshooting requires a real-time view of the state of the network.

Real-time, automated topology mapping provides this critical solution by continually tracing the live topology to track changes as they happen. And for a network that will rely heavily on automation to drive operations efficiency, having an accurate, up-to-date view of the topology and inventory will be critical for activities like fault correlation or capacity reservation.

EXFO has the analytics and topology discovery tools you need to see into the invisible network.


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