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Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) is a method of designing, deploying and managing virtualized computer networking services. Also called Virtual Network Function (VNF), it decouples network functions from proprietary hardware appliances so they can run in software. With NFV, functions such as network address translation, firewalling, intrusion detection, domain name service, routing, load balancing and caching are packaged as virtual machines running on commodity hardware. Because NFV architecture virtualizes network functions and eliminates dedicated hardware, network managers can add, move or change functions at the server level in a simplified provisioning process.

NFV can consolidate and deliver virtualized networking components to support virtual servers, virtual storage and other networks. Using standard IT virtualization software, NFV enables organizations to reduce capital expenses with pay-as-you-grow purchasing models instead of buying purpose-built hardware or over-provisioning. NFV can also reduce operating expenses with lower space, power and cooling requirements for network equipment. NFV lowers the risks associated with rolling out new services, allowing IT departments to trial network services and evolve them as needed. Because they are virtualized, network services can quickly scale up or down to address changing business demands. NFV is complementary to Software-Defined Networking (SDN) but not dependent on it (or vice-versa).

NFV was created by a consortium of service providers with the goal of accelerating the deployment of new network services. The European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) built the basic requirements and architecture of NFV. The Linux Foundation offers an open source reference platform, the Open Platform for NFV Project (OPNFV). OPNFV works closely with ETSI for consistent implementation of open standards. SUSE is a platinum member of OPNFV. NFV capabilities enhance SUSE’s software-defined data center offerings such as Enterprise Linux Server and SUSE Enterprise Storage.