Collapsing the ‘Branch Stack’ with Network Functions Virtualization - Rahi

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IT Infrastructure

Collapsing the ‘Branch Stack’ with Network Functions Virtualization

By Krishna Kunapuli

November 30, 2022 -


Deploying and managing IT infrastructure on a box-by-box basis locks IT teams in the role of technology caretakers. It’s bad enough in the centralized data center, where growing density and ever-increasing complexity have made administration resource-intensive. When those same challenges exist in multiple remote locations, you wind up with a monumental headache.

Not that long ago, branch offices didn’t need much in the way of IT infrastructure. A WAN connection to the centralized data center gave employees access to the resources they need to do their jobs. Today, organizations are connecting remote locations directly to the Internet to facilitate access to cloud services. Direct Internet access means branch offices need a firewall, network access control, and other security tools. They may also need WAN optimization.

With traditional IT infrastructure, the IT team would have to deploy multiple purpose-built appliances to deliver those services. The result is an ever-larger “branch stack” that must be implemented, monitored, administered, and managed.

Network functions virtualization (NFV) delivers WAN and security services through software, making it possible to collapse the branch stack onto a single platform. Virtualized network functions (VNFs) can be updated through software and new capabilities can be added as needed. NFV is widely adopted by service providers, hyperscale data center operators, and organizations with multiple locations.

Delivering Value

In a recent study conducted by Dimensional Research, 68 percent of respondents said that deploying and managing branch location devices was a significant drawback of conventional WAN models. More than a third (38 percent) complained of growing complexity, while 36% said the slow deployment was a challenge. That’s because IT personnel have to travel to each branch to handle the implementation and troubleshoot any issues that can’t be resolved remotely.

Software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) addresses some of these concerns by virtualizing many WAN functions traditionally tied to hardware. It enables automated, policy-based routing and centralized monitoring and management. Some SD-WAN solutions also incorporate security controls.

But SD-WAN, for all its value, is only part of the branch environment. NFV makes it possible to virtualize WAN accelerators, load balancers, firewalls, and intrusion detection systems, just to name a few. Separating virtualized network functions from proprietary appliances makes it possible to create a more flexible network architecture and utilize less-expensive generic hardware. This significantly decreases costs and allows for rapid rollouts and agile network administration.

NFV also allows organizations to introduce new network services without buying and deploying hardware. Functionality can be implemented in hours as opposed to weeks or months.

Getting the Most from NFV

In order to maximize the value of NFV in the branch, organizations should take a strategic approach. That starts with developing standards for the x86 architecture used to host VNFs in all sites. Standardized hardware with well-defined configurations helps ensure faster deployment, streamlined administration, and repeatable results. This templatized approach is especially important in service provider environments where the scale is huge and it is not practical to deploy and manage each branch/regional PoP (Point of Presence) separately.

Enterprise networking software agreements can streamline the licensing of software and eliminate the need to overpay for appliances to get needed features or performance. Cloud-based automation and orchestration tools reduce technician site visits by enabling remote management of VNFs.

Allied Market Research predicts that NFV will see a compound annual growth rate of 23.8% through 2031. KBV Research is even more bullish, predicting a CAGR of 24.8% through 2028. Service providers in particular are utilizing NFV to reduce costs and increase agility.

Rahi’s networking practice brings the expertise to optimize hyperscale and branch IT operations with NFV. Let us help you collapse the branch stack onto a more manageable, agile, and cost-efficient software-defined infrastructure.


  • Krishna is a Network Solutions Architect and early enthusiast of software-defined networks. He has more than 15 years of consulting experience in designing and implementing IP networks with execution around the globe, including some landmark projects. He specializes in designing large networks with a high degree of programmability and self-service.

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