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Executive Viewpoint 2017 Prediction: Array Networks – Providing Agility at Scale for 2017

Over the last several years, virtual network functions (VNF) have gained significant ground. From routing and security to app delivery, more and more enterprises and service providers are decoupling software from hardware and deploying required functions in more agile virtualized environments. The benefits are readily apparent; networks and functions can respond to the needs of applications in a matter of minutes or even seconds, and truck rolls and installation are no longer required to enable new services. All of which greatly reduces both CapEx and OpEx.

Increased agility, however, did not come without a trade-off. Many VNFs are compute-intensive and do not scale well on commodity x86 servers. In addition, hypervisor management imposes a performance penalty, and in many cases a competition for resource arises between virtual machines. As compared to purpose-built appliances, the cost of scaling and ensuring guaranteed performance for VNFs can quickly spiral out of control.

As a result, the market for VNFs will continue to grow, but it may not grow as fast as previously predicted. In other words, there are an increasing number of companies that are hesitant to sacrifice performance and customer satisfaction for a move to fully virtualized private cloud environments. And as IT professionals increasingly encounter performance roadblocks for virtual network and security functions, new deployment models will emerge in 2017 in order to provide higher levels of guaranteed performance in shared environments.

One such deployment model will be the Network Functions Platform, which will attempt to provide the best of both worlds, bridging the gap between the performance of purpose-built hardware appliances and the agility of software virtual appliances.

The Network Functions Platform is a hybrid approach that is equal parts virtualized server and dedicated appliance. It is virtualized using an open-source hypervisor and features specialized components and an architecture that is purpose-built for networking and security functions. In order to provide guaranteed performance in shared environments, the Network Functions Platform features the ability to provide dedicated resources such as CPU, SSL cores, memory and interfaces for each VM. In addition, dedicated resources are allocated for hypervisor management in order to eliminate VM contention.

Like most popular virtualization management platforms, the Network Functions Platform will feature streamlined management with simplified monitoring and service chaining capabilities, providing an ideal environment for deploying virtual ADC, SSL VPN, WAF, DDoS NGFW and other functions with agility at scale. And while there will be some difference from vendor to vendor, in theory the more open the platform is the better it will serve the needs of both customers and reseller partners.

While virtual network functions will continue to grow in 2017, the year will also be characterized by new deployment models that aim to iron out emerging challenges to VNF adoption. The Network Functions Platform and other new approaches, once proven, will set the stage for continued growth in line with previous forecasts and predictions.

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