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Benefits of a Tier-1 US Operator’s NFV Implementation

Business Driver

In an effort to sustain a profitable business model while experiencing tremendous growth in traffic and meeting the potential demands for IoT and 5G use case requirements, the world’s largest operators are deploying NFV with OpenStack in an open architecture. In particular, operators are looking for an open, multi-vendor NFV platform to evolve and scale their networks to lower costs, reduce time to market, and improve operational efficiencies.

Today, few organizations have experience in deploying NFV infrastructure on a large scale. One exception is a particular Tier-1 U.S. operator that has collaborated with multiple vendors to create an NFV architecture design, after multiple iterations. A large-scale solution is currently deployed nationally across the operator’s data centers and is being adapted for its central offices and mobile service.

Meeting Operator Requirements

Four key areas of collaboration brought the solution’s deployment from lab to production:

  • Design and deployment flexibility
  • Resiliency and performance at scale 
  • Reducing operational complexity
  • Integrating security and analytics


The Tier-1 operator’s lab tested the system under extreme conditions and against many variables to evaluate the effectiveness of its integrated security and visibility. These tests helped ensure that the resulting NFV open architecture would be secure against intrusions and emerging threats.

The design included a mix of both virtual and physical network functions making up an NFV workload. OpenStack APIs and user interface workflows orchestrated the provisioning and service chains required by the network’s firewalls and load balancers.

To meet the operator’s stringent capacity and throughput requirements, and to help reduce the overall NFV footprint while simplifying operations, a comprehensive security and firewall solution was needed. This included DDoS mitigation, SSL, IPv6, and service chaining in the SGi-LAN. F5 was the selected vendor for the security and firewall capabilities in this open architecture design and deployment.

As a result of the operator/vendor collaboration, improvements were made to upstream open source code to align the final open architecture design with the operator’s network infrastructure. Open APIs and extensive software integration helped make the operator’s deployment efficient and dynamic.

TCO Analysis of NFV Deployment with Open Architecture

The Tier-1 operator and ecosystem vendors engaged ACG Research to analyze the economics of two designs: the open architecture platform and a more “tightly bundled alternative.” The bundled alternative was a vendor-specific platform for a range of functionalities designed with some proprietary implementations. ACG Research conducted an independent Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) study of each design.

Compared to the tightly bundled approach, the ACG TCO analysis shows:

  • Cumulative TCO of the open architecture platform over five years is estimated to be 53% lower
  • The open architecture platform is 3x faster, on average, in deploying new service offerings
  • Overall security CapEx with the open approach is half that of the alternative


Key savings comes from the openness in component hardware, software designs, ecosystem vendor validations, and extensive automation based on open standard APIs. Primary CapEx savings in the security solution comes from the streamlining of a range of protections including DDoS mitigations, SSL, service chaining in the SGi-LAN, and IPv6 support that helps to reduce the overall NFV footprint and simplify operations.

Tier-1 Operator NFV Deployment—Key Takeaway

Vendor ecosystem integration and design validation improved efficiency and made the operator’s NFV deployment a success. Extensive software integration used open APIs, NFV reference models, and open architectures of network, application, and OSS/BSS deployments.

The open architecture platform allows operator flexibility to select the most effective virtual functions.

  • High Availability with IPv6
  • Comprehensive security (SSL, DDoS)
  • OpEx simplicity
  • Agility in deployment of new services


The TCO economic analysis of this Tier-1 operator’s NFV deployment shows that a validated NFV product solution from vendors such as F5 and its partners can help operators reduce CapEx and OpEx, while improving service agility for faster paths to revenue. Validated NFV solutions help operators ensure application availability, performance, and security while improving operational efficiency.

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