Tools for a Digital Transformation

The difference between NFV, SDN, and Orchestration

We’re 5+ years into the digital transformation, but still see confusion around the difference between NFV, SDN, and Orchestration. There is oodles of information available online to explain the difference between these three tools, so we thought we’d have some fun with the topic.

It’s hard to find a common human situation to compare the transformation that people can understand simply based on everyday life. We needed a metaphor which not only explained the uncomfortable situation current communication networks are in (ie. rigid, monolithic, expensive foundations which aren’t built to enable easy new service creation) as well as the role of the tools in question (NFV, SDN, Orchestration), and the outcome of the transformation. So what makes sense?

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Michelin Star restaurants seemed to be the best fit. Is it perfect? No - nothing can be, but it might help some folks who struggle with these concepts better understand the relative role of these tools in a transformed network.

So, review the infographic with an open mind, and send us feedback if you have a better analogy!

For our more literal colleagues, we really like these technical definitions:

A network architecture, Software-Defined Networking (SDN), enables network programmability with intelligent, central control. By aggregating resource control, network owners have a holistic approach to network management which increases network optimization while providing a flexible foundation for service creation.
Centralized control, by nature, lends to a more open, multi-vendor approach to network resources and applications.

NFV (Source: SDxCentral)
Network functions virtualization (NFV) offers an alternative way to design, deploy, and manage networking services. It is a complementary approach to software-defined networking (SDN) for network management. While they both manage networks, they rely on different methods. While SDN separates the control and forwarding planes to offer a centralized view of the network, NFV primarily focuses on optimizing the network services themselves.
NFV began when service providers attempted to speed up the deployment of new network services in order to advance their revenue and growth plans, and they found that hardware-based appliances limited their ability to achieve these goals. They looked to standard IT virtualization technologies and found NFV helped accelerate service innovation and provisioning.

Orchestration (Source: SDxCentral):
Orchestration System – provides automated configuration, coordination, and management of complex computing networks, systems and services. These systems are designed to reduce the time and manual manipulation required to align a business’s applications, data, and infrastructure. In a software-defined networking (SDN) context, orchestration systems decouple the orchestration layer from the service layer to increase the agility of the applications being rolled out on the network.