Network operators are looking for effective ways to scale their services while keeping down costs to maintain revenue growth. NFV has emerged as a promising solution, enabling service providers to deploy large numbers of virtualized network functions on industry-standard high-performance servers. As well as cutting both operational and capital expenditure, operators benefit from shortened time to market. Other advantages for the industry include the growth in independent software vendors, and easier development and deployment of new revenue-generating features.
In theory, virtualised network functions perform exactly as their physical counterparts. In practice such complex systems always require thorough testing under simulated but realistic operating conditions to eliminate unexpected phenomena arising out of complexity. So NFV functions and infrastructure must be stringently tested in the lab before turn up of services, in order to minimize network outages in the final network. It is also necessary to monitor performance on an on-going basis to ensure continued good service.
With the massive scaling of today’s networks, testing at this level could add considerable cost – although, of course, the long-term cost of not testing might be far greater. The use of virtual test appliances, however, greatly reduces this overhead, both in terms of capital outlay and labour. This approach is recommended for all but the most critical functions, where a certain proportion of physical testing would still be recommended.