As carriers increasingly move their networks toward virtualization it’s important for both the operators and their customers to understand what lies ahead.

To get a better picture of the future of network function virtualization (NFV), WirelessWeek reached out to Sven Freudenfeld, head of business development telecom and cloud infrastructure in Kontron’s Communication Business Unit, for more information.

According to Freudenfeld, there are five main things to know about NFV:

1. What it is

Customers in particular may have heard the term NFV, especially in relation to the related technology software-defined networking, but they may not know exactly what network functions virtualization is, Freudenfeld said. NFV is a model in which network functions run on virtual machines on top of networking infrastructure.

2. How it can give a competitive advantage

When carriers or customers need to add capabilities to stay ahead of the competition, they need to be able to add them immediately, Freudenfeld said. NFV enables carriers to be more flexible and agile, allowing them to dynamically adapt to network and consumer needs through near-instant implementation of changes.

3. How it helps carriers and customers grow

NFV equipment that separates the data and management planes ensures that even the most intense peaks in data traffic loads will not undermine the platform’s responsiveness to automated re-configurations or re-allocations of resources, Freudenfeld said. This is critical for safeguarding service levels to the customer, he said.

Additionally, Freudenfeld said NFV will help carriers grow into the 5G future where multiple vertical markets share the same network infrastructure by providing network slicing capabilities.

4. How it can save money

NFV systems reduce CAPEX and OPEX costs for carriers, which enables carriers to deliver services to their customers in a more cost-effective manner.

Freudenfeld also said that NFV can help carriers launch new or recoup losses on failed services by allowing for dynamic repurposing of network infrastructure for other services, which means a quicker time to monetization.

5. Risks and challenges

Though NFV inherently eliminates some risks by simplifying the network, Freudenfeld said there are two main concerns and challenges associated with the roll-out of NFV. First, Freudenfeld said it will be important to achieve interoperability in a multi-vendor environment for network management and orchestration.

The second major concern is security, Freudenfeld said. Though he said there has already been a “significant investment” in security, Freudenfeld said it will be important for carriers to nail down how to handle the massive amounts of data collected from the Internet of Things in virtualized environment.

On this second front, Freudenfeld said Kontron is planning to roll out an example of NFV security at February’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.