In the increasing world of software-defined everything, CIOs are taking a look at network functions virtualization (NFV), which brings network functions to virtual environments.

According to analyst Zeus Kerravala of ZK Research in a piece for NetworkWorld U.S., NFV is one of the big themes at this week’s Interop New York.

While much of the focus of NFV has been on virtualizing traditional network services, he writes, there’s increasing interest in communications infrastructure, most notably Session Border Controllers (SBCs) for terminating SIP trunks. SBCs have been only available as hardware appliances, but as interest in the technology has broadened outside of service providers and very large enterprises, the demand for a virtual version has grown.

In this piece he advises what to look for in a virtual SBC. For me, two points stand out:

  • Consistency of features across platforms. Not all vendors offer all features across all products, he notes. Sometimes vendors have certain features that are dependent on specific hardware.  From a buyer’s standpoint, it’s important to have all features available across all the products. For SBCs this is critical to ensure that there’s a common set of UC services available across all branch locations.
  • Easy migration from currently installed products. Virtualized SBCs are still in their infancy, and its likely customers are going to need to migrate from an older, hardware appliance to a virtual version., he writes There’s also the possibility that customers may want to migrate from a virtual appliance back to a hardware appliance down the road. Whatever the migration path, this should be something that’s easy for the vendor to do. If it requires custom scripts, lengthy upgrades or a team of engineers to do so, it’s probably best to go in a different direction.

“NFV is a powerful technology that can deliver on-demand services for almost any network service,” he says. “It brings a level of agility to the network that’s never been seen before. The SBC is ideally suited to be virtualized and run as an “NFV” workload, and I believe we’ll see more innovation in this area over the next year or so. However, I do believe there will always be demand for dedicated hardware appliances for those that require the dedicated, consistent performance.