SDN vs NFV: the Future of Networking
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SDN vs NFV: the Future of Networking

Posted on by FS.COM

The demands of the exploding number of people and devices using the network are stretching its limits. Software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV) are emerging as complementary approaches and new ways to design, built and manage networks. They each aim to advance a software-based approach to networking for more scalable, agile, and innovative networks that can better align and support the system requirement. Some detailed information related to SDN vs NFV is addressed in this article, including the similarities, differences and applications.

SDN vs NFV: Basics of SDN and NFV

To begin with, let’s first go through the definition of SDN and NFV technologies. We know that the build custom silicon and hardware in networks makes any change in systems a challenging issue. Not to mention that it is rather cost-prohibitive when it comes to investment. Under this circumstance, it is imperative to free the software and change everything. And this brings the proliferation of SDN/NFV.


SDN primarily starts in the campus and matured in the data center, it separates the network’s control (brains) and forwarding (muscle) planes and provides a centralized view of the distributed network, enabling more efficient orchestration and automation of network services. SDN also possess the ability to program the behavior of the network using well-defined interfaces. OpenFlow serves as a common standard of SDN. It defines both a model for how traffic is organized into flows, and how those flows can be controlled as needed.

NFV was created by service providers with the attempt to speed the deployment of new network services and to boost their revenue. NFV decouples the network functions (DNS, caching, etc.) from proprietary hardware appliances, so users can run in software to accelerate service innovation and provisioning, particularly within service provider environments. NFV utilizes standard IT virtualization technologies that run on high-volume service, switch and storage hardware to virtualize network functions. It is applicable to any data plane processing or control plane function in both wired and wireless network infrastructures.

SDN vs NFV: Similarities and Differences

SDN and NFV technology aims to shift networking to a software-based approach, with the purpose to build a more flexible, reliable and innovative networks. They generally process some common characteristics:

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

Despite the commonalities, SDN/NFV also differ from each other in that SDN contributes to network automation that enables policy-based decisions to orchestrate which network traffic goes where, while NFV focuses on the services.

Category SDN NFV
Reason for Being Separation of control and data, centralization of control and programmability of network Relocation of network functions from dedicated appliances to generic servers
Target Location Campus, data center/ cloud Service provider network
Target Devices Commodity servers and switches Commodity servers and switches
Initial Applications Cloud orchestration and networking Routers, firewalls, gateways, CDN, WAN accelerators, SLA assurance
New Protocols OpenFlow None yet
Formalization Open Networking Forum (ONF) ETSI NFV Working Group
SDN vs NFV: Why SDN and NFV for Today and the Future?

Advancements in today’s off-the-shelf hardware or whitebox networking bring the seismic technology shift in networking to software. The shift underlies all SAN or NFV technologies: software can finally be decoupled from the hardware, so that it’s no longer constrained by the box that delivers it. The major advantages of SDN and NFV to build networks are listed as following.

SDN and NFV together

  • Enable Innovation: enabling organizations to create new types of applications, services and business models
  • Offer New Services: Create new revenue generating services
  • Reduce CAPEX: allowing network functions to run on off-the-shelf hardware
  • Reduce OPEX: supporting automation and algorithm control through increased programmability of network elements to make it simple to design, deploy, manage and scale networks
  • Deliver Agility and Flexibility: helping organizations rapidly deploy new applications, services and infrastructure to quickly meet their changing requirements.
FS.COM Switches Support SDN and NFV

FS.COM 10/40/100G data center switches, equipped with SDN/NFV technology, can facilitate network convergence, increase network agility, decrease deployment time and complexity while reducing costs. Which enables a more agile optimized user experience. Details of our SDN/NFV switch modules are presented below.


It is said that the proliferation of SDN/NFV technology will fundamentally transform the telecommunications industry in the next five to ten years. So it is an imperative for network managers to adopt SDN and NFV to further optimize the network performance, in order to meet the on-going demand for high-bandwidth applications, as well to enable simplified network management and reduced operation cost.

Related Article: How Does SDN Boost the Development of White Box Switches?

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