Road to Cloud-Native Network Functions |
2 min readOct 20, 2020

We have come a long way to enjoy all the benefits that cloud-native network functions bring us — lowered costs, agility, scalability & resilience. This post will break down the road to CNFs — from PNF to VNF, to CNF.

What are PNFs (physical network functions)?

Back in the ’00s, network functions were utilized in the form of physical, hardware boxes, where each box served the purpose of a specific network function. Imagine routers, firewalls, load balancers, or switches as PNFs, utilized in data centers for decades before another technology replaced them. PNF boxes were difficult to operate, install, and manage.

Just as it was unimaginable to have a personal computer 20 years ago, we were unable to imagine virtualized network functions. Thanks to cheaper, off-the-shelf hardware and expansion of cloud services, enterprises were able to afford to move some network parts from PNFs to generic, commodity hardware.

What are VNFs (virtual network functions)?

The approach of virtualization enabled us to share hardware resources between multiple tenants while keeping the isolation of environments in place. The next logical step was the move from the physical, to the virtual world.

A VNF is a virtualized network function, that runs on top of a hardware networking infrastructure. Individual functions of a network may be implemented or combined together, in order to create a complete package of a networking-communication service. A virtual network function can be part of an SDN architecture or used as a singular entity within a network.

Today’s standardization of VNFs would not be possible without ETSIs Open-Source Mano architecture, or the TOSCA standard, which can serve as lifecycle management. These are, for example, used in the open-source platform ONAP (Open Network Automation Platform).

What are CNFs (cloud-native network functions)?

Cloud-native network functions are software implementations of functions, which are traditionally performed by PNFs — and they need to conform to cloud-native principles. They can be packaged within a container image, are always ready to be deployed & orchestrated, chained together to perform a series of complex network functions.

Why should I use CNFs?

Microservices and the overall benefits of adapting cloud-native principles, come with several benefits, which show a natural evolution of network functions in the 2020s. Imagine the benefits of:

  • Reduced Costs
  • Immediate Deployment
  • Easy Control
  • Agility, Scalability & Resilience

Our project delivers on all of these promises. Get up-to-date with your network functions and contact us today, to get a quote.

Originally published at on October 20, 2020.



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