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SDN vs NFV | Difference between SDN and NFV

This page compares SDN vs NFV and mentions difference between SDN and NFV.SDN is the short form of Software Defined Networking and NFV is the short form of Network Functions Virtualization.

SDN-Software Defined Networking

SDN-Software Defined Networking

• The role of SDN is to separate control and data plane in order to accomplish elasticity, on-demand, programmability and scalability.
• SDN is the ideal underlying network for NFV.
Refer Traditional networking vs SDN➤ and SDN basics➤.

NFV-Network Functions Virtualization

NFV-Network Functions Virtualization

The role of NFV is to relocate network functions from dedicated appliances to generic servers. NFV allows network operators to implement network policy without worrying about where to place the functions in the network and how to route traffic through these functions.

NFV moves all the functions as listed below in a common x86 architecture using virtualization.
• Router • Firewall • Web server • Load Balancer • Switch • Media Server

NFV helps in achieving following benefits for the operators.
• Standard hardware • Less complex • very flexible • reduced power • lower CapEx • lower OpEx • Test new applications • Low risk • Reduced TTM • Open market to software suppliers

Following table mentions potential functions that could be virtualized.


Network element to be virtualized Its Function
Switching elements Broadband network gateways, carrier grade NAT (network address translation), routers
Mobile network nodes HLR/HSS, Gateway, GPRS support node, radio network controller, various node B functions
Customer Premise Equipment Home routers, set-top boxes
Tunneling Gateway elements IPsec/SSL virtual private network gateways
Traffic analysis Deep packet inspection (DPI), quality of experience measurement
assurance service assurance, service level agreement (SLA) monitoring, testing and diagnostics
signaling session border controllers, IP multimedia subsystem components
control plane/access functions AAA servers, policy control and charging platforms
application optimization content delivery networks, cache servers, load balancers, accelerators
security firewalls, virus scanners, intrusion detection systems, spam protection

Both SDN and NFV are highly complementary but there are few differences between them as listed below.

Tabular difference between SDN and NFV

Following table describes difference between SDN and NFV.


Features SDN NFV
Focus or major role SDN focuses on data center. NFV focuses on service providers or operators.
Strategy It splits the control and data forwarding planes. It replaces hardware network devices with software.
protocol Uses OpenFlow Not finalized yet, does support OpenFlow
Where the applications will run? Applications run on industry standard servers or switches Applications run on industry standard servers
Prime intiative supporters Vendors of enterprise networking software and hardware. Telecom service providers or operators.
Business initiator Corporate IT Service provider
Customer benefit or end user benefit Drives down complexity and cost and increases agility. Drives down complexity and cost and increases agility.
Initial applications Cloud orchestration and networking routers, firewalls, gateways, CDN, WAN accelerators, SLA assurance
Formalization body Open Networking Foundation (ONF) ETSI NFV Working Group

Let us conclude the difference between SDN and NFV.
➨ SDN is considered to be re-definition of network architecture.
• It has come from IT world.
• It separates the control and data layers while centralizing the control.
• Deliver the ability to program network behavior using well defined interfaces.

➨NFV is considered to be re-definition of network equipment architecture.
• NFV has been developed to meet needs of service provider as listed below.
• Lower CAPEX by reducing or eliminating proprietary hardware.
• By consolidating multiple network functions into industry standard platforms.

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