Best Network Function Virtualization Tools

In a traditional network environment, various network functions, such as firewalls, routers, load balancers, Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS), and more, are implemented using specialized hardware appliances.

Here is our list of the best network function virtualization tools:

  1. Red Hat OpenStack This package includes NFV capabilities as part of its cloud infrastructure (IaaS)
  2. Cisco NFV Infrastructure (NFVI) A range of hardware and software to implement NFV for data centers.
  3. VMware vCloud NFV A virtualized network solution with multi-tenancy for service providers.
  4. Check Point CloudGuard A virtual secure gateway that acts as a firewall for cloud resources.
  5. Juniper Contrail Service Orchestration (CSO) This management package automates the cooperation between infrastructure services.
  6. Nokia CloudBand Provides live mapping between virtual infrastructure and container-based delivery systems to bridge 5G requirements for mobile apps.

Each of these hardware appliances serves a specific purpose and is often expensive to purchase, deploy, and maintain. As networks grow, managing and scaling these dedicated hardware devices become complex and cost-intensive. Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) addresses these challenges using virtualization technology.

Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) or Virtual Network Function (VNF) just as the name implies is a network architecture concept that leverages the IT virtualization technologies to virtualize entire network functions

NFV replaces network appliance hardware with virtual machines. The virtual machines use a hypervisor or software-defined networking controller to run networking software and processes such as routing and load balancing.

An NFV architecture consists of three parts:

  • Centralized virtual network infrastructure An NFV infrastructure can rely on either a container management platform or a hypervisor, which abstracts the computing, storage, and network resources, providing the necessary foundation.
  • Software applications Software replaces the hardware components found in traditional network architectures, effectively providing various network functionalities through virtualized network functions.
  • Framework A framework, commonly referred to as MANO (Management, Automation, and Network Orchestration),  is needed to manage the infrastructure and provision network functionality.

NFV aims to transform traditional network services by virtualizing network functions, moving them from dedicated hardware appliances to software-based instances that run on standard servers. The idea behind NFV is to decouple network functions from the underlying hardware and run them as virtualized software instances on general-purpose servers or in the cloud.

In this article, we’re going to review the best network function virtualization tools. Hopefully, this will guide you in the process of choosing the right one for your organization.

The Best Network Function Virtualization Tools

Our methodology for selecting a network function virtualization tool

We reviewed the market for NFV systems and analyzed tools based on the following criteria:

  • Systems that track resource requirements for JIT provision
  • Solutions to bridge to 5G infrastructure
  • Methods to map virtualizations to containers
  • Coordination between different infrastructure packages
  • Nice to have cost-tracking
  • A free trial or a demo system to enable an understanding of the service before paying
  • Value for money from a virtualization package that improves efficiency and pays for itself

1. Red Hat OpenStack

Red Hat OpenStack

Red Hat OpenStack is a cloud computing platform that provides Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) capabilities. It is an open-source cloud platform based on OpenStack, which is a collection of open-source software projects that work together to enable the creation and management of public and private clouds. OpenStack is designed to provide a scalable and flexible cloud infrastructure that allows users to deploy and manage virtual machines, storage resources, and networking components.

Key Features:

  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
  • Platform for cloud services
  • Integrated usage and cost tracking
  • A self-service platform for containers

Why do we recommend it?

Red Hat OpenStack provides a way to implement cloud services. So, if you are running a SaaS project, you can set up hosting on a server with this package. As it is an Infrastructure-as-a-Service package, the OpenStack system opens up a number of delivery options for hosted applications and that list includes NFV capabilities.

Red Hat OpenStack can be utilized as a platform for Network Function Virtualization (NFV). OpenStack NFV works by leveraging the capabilities of OpenStack to virtualize and manage network functions, which were traditionally implemented as dedicated hardware appliances. By virtualizing these functions, NFV allows network operators to run them as software instances on standard servers, storage, and networking infrastructure.

The first step in OpenStack NFV is identifying the network functions suitable for virtualization. By breaking down these functions into software instances, they become more agile and can be easily provisioned and scaled as needed. OpenStack’s components like Nova, the compute service, handle the management of virtual machines running NFV applications, while Neutron, the networking service, configures network connectivity for the virtualized functions, enabling seamless communication between them. Central to the success of OpenStack NFV is the orchestration process, often facilitated by the OpenStack Heat service. With Heat, network operators can define templates and workflows, specifying the network functions required for deployment, as well as the desired number of instances, configurations, network connectivity, and security settings.

OpenStack NFV synergizes with Software-Defined Networking (SDN) solutions to create a comprehensive and adaptable network ecosystem. SDN allows the centralized management of network traffic, providing dynamic adjustments to accommodate the requirements of NFV applications. Additionally, OpenStack NFV remains open to incorporating emerging technologies, enabling network operators to leverage innovations and stay at the forefront of networking advancements.

Who is it recommended for?

OpenStack is a mainstream cloud platform management package. It is a reliable service from a respected brand. However, its NFV capabilities are not so straightforward. This isn’t an option you can pick off a set up menu and get running within minutes. This is a prospect for a company that has an Infrastructure-as-Code development expert on the team.


  • Use OpenStack Neutorns to create virtual network components
  • Multi-tenancy network connection management through OpenFlow
  • Possible to support intrusion detection systems and virtual firewalls
  • A free package that is well supported by major IT corporations


  • The list of modules keeps growing, making system comprehension more complicated

The combination of OpenStack’s robust cloud computing platform and NFV’s virtualization prowess empowers network operators to create highly adaptable, resilient, and future-ready network environments. As the demand for faster and more agile networks continues to grow, OpenStack NFV is poised to remain at the forefront of technological advancements, shaping the landscape of modern networking for years to come.

2. Cisco NFV Infrastructure (NFVI)

Cisco NFV Infrastructure (NFVI)

Cisco NFV Infrastructure (NFVI) is a solution offered by Cisco Systems, a leading networking, and IT technology provider, to support Network Function Virtualization (NFV) deployments in modern telecommunications networks. NFVI is a foundational platform that provides the necessary computing, storage, and networking resources to run virtualized network functions.

Key Features:

  • NVF hardware
  • Virtualization manager
  • Network services orchestrator

Why do we recommend it?

Cisco Systems is a major network equipment manufacturer and it is a leader in code-based network management and security systems, such as access control lists. The company uses the Cisco NVF Infrastructure product line to market a hardware range rather than a purely virtualized package of systems.

The primary objective of Cisco NFVI is to create a robust and scalable infrastructure that allows Communication Service Providers (CSPs) and Network Operators to deploy and manage virtualized network functions efficiently. By virtualizing network functions, CSPs can replace traditional hardware-based appliances with software-based instances, leading to increased agility, cost savings, and faster service delivery.

Cisco NFVI leverages Cisco’s expertise in networking and IT technology to provide a robust and scalable infrastructure for hosting virtualized network functions. This infrastructure is built on Cisco’s industry-leading hardware platforms, including Unified Computing System (UCS) servers, Nexus switches, and MDS storage solutions. These components ensure the high performance and reliability required to handle the demands of virtualized workloads.

The key components and building blocks of Cisco NFVI infrastructure include: 

  • Compute Cisco Unified Computing System (Cisco UCS) for a carrier-class and reliable computing infrastructure.
  • Storage Cisco UCS hardware and CEPH provide reliable storage. The user has the option to introduce additional storage as capacity needs grow.
  • Networking Cisco Nexus 9000 series hardware provides high throughput, low latency, and rich feature sets.
  • Virtualized Infrastructure Fully integrated Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Red Hat OpenStack Platform runs on top of the Cisco Unified Computing System (Cisco UCS). It is open source yet hardened and mature.
  • Management Cisco UCS Director functions as a unified management tool across multiple virtual environments. SDN controller is optional.

Who is it recommended for?

Cisco markets its NVF Infrastructure to data centers. The line includes servers, switches, and routers – real world hardware rather than software-based virtualizations. The company specifically mentions the Telco sector as its target market. The company offers a range of software products that run on the recommended Cisco hardware.


  • Software-defined networking options
  • Programmable network function virtualization
  • Extends to mobile networks


  • Cisco talks more about its hardware than virtualizations on its NVF solutions page

Embracing Cisco NFVI is a strategic step towards building future-ready networks that deliver enhanced customer experiences and drive innovation in telecommunications.

3. VMware vCloud NFV

VMware vCloud NFV

VMware vCloud NFV is a comprehensive network virtualization platform specifically designed to enable Communication Service Providers (CSPs) and Network Operators to deploy and manage Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) services. VMware vCloud NFV provides a robust infrastructure for running virtualized network functions and offers a range of features tailored to meet the demanding requirements of telecommunication networks.

Key Features:

  • Linked to vCloud Director for Service Providers
  • 5G compatible
  • Virtualized Infrastructure Manager

Why do we recommend it?

VMware vCloud NFV provides virtual networking options as part of the vCloud IaaS platform for creating cloud services on your data center servers. The NFV package is actually a large bundle of VMware systems that is based around the EXSi service. There seem to be more VM virtualizations in the core package than network virtualizations – NSX isn’t included.

The key components of VMware vCloud NFV include the vCloud NFV Manager, vCloud Director, vSphere, NSX-T Data Center, vSAN, and Integrated OpenStack. These components work cohesively to enable the deployment and orchestration of NFV services. At the heart of VMware vCloud NFV is the vCloud NFV Manager, a centralized management and orchestration platform. It streamlines the deployment, scaling, and monitoring of virtualized network functions, simplifying the overall management of the NFV infrastructure.

vCloud Director, another critical component, provides cloud resource management capabilities, allowing CSPs to create and manage virtual data centers. This enables efficient resource allocation for NFV workloads, including computing, storage, and networking resources. The virtualization foundation is powered by vSphere, VMware’s trusted virtualization platform. It enables the running of virtual machines hosting the network functions, delivering flexibility and resource optimization for the NFV environment.

For networking capabilities, VMware vCloud NFV integrates with NSX-T Data Center, VMware’s Software-Defined Networking (SDN) solution. NSX-T enables the creation of virtual networks and micro-segmentation, ensuring secure network connectivity for virtualized network functions.

Storage requirements are met by vSAN, VMware’s virtual Storage Area Network technology. vSAN provides scalable and distributed storage to support the storage-intensive needs of virtualized NFV workloads. vCloud NFV also facilitates integration with OpenStack APIs, allowing CSPs to manage and deploy Virtualized Network Functions (VNFs) using OpenStack tools. This integration enhances interoperability and simplifies the management of NFV services.

Who is it recommended for?

This package is intended for businesses that are setting up a cloud-based service, such as a SaaS delivery model for their software. The VMware system is built on the OpenStack model, so there will be some transferable skills to be exploited for companies wishing to source from a pool of rare NFV management skills.


  • Based on OpenStack
  • Resource usage and cost tracking
  • Hardware acceleration and automated performance enhancements


  • You need to buy NSX separately

One of the standout features of VMware vCloud NFV is its focus on telco-grade performance and reliability. The platform incorporates specialized features like CPU pinning, NUMA optimization, and hardware acceleration to ensure the high-performance execution of virtualized network functions, crucial for telecommunications networks. By leveraging VMware’s proven virtualization technologies, vCloud NFV reduces operational costs, fosters rapid service innovation, and establishes a foundation for telco-grade performance and reliability.

5. Check Point CloudGuard 

Check Point CloudGuard 

Check Point offers a diverse range of virtual network security products tailored to cater to various potential use cases. Virtualized network security solutions, particularly those implemented using Virtual Network Functions (VNF), play a crucial role in safeguarding cloud networks where physical security appliances are not viable alternatives.

Key Features:

  • Cloud Security
  • Virtual gateway
  • Protects cloud services

Why do we recommend it?

Check Point CloudGuard is a protection service for cloud-based services, including microservices (functions) and containers. The company produces a cloud-based firewall for on-premises systems, called Quantum Edge. So, you might end up using both of these products to protect your entire estate. This tool can also be used to marshall CI/CD pipeline progress.

Check Point provides Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) implementations of essential security solutions. Among these offerings are Quantum Edge, a virtualized Next-Generation Firewall (NGFW), and Check Point CloudGuard. This powerful solution enables the virtualization of network security functions, delivering enhanced protection and flexibility in the ever-evolving world of cybersecurity. As an integral component of the CloudGuard Cloud Native Security platform, CloudGuard Cloud Network Security delivers cutting-edge threat prevention and automated cloud network security. It achieves this through a virtual security gateway, offering a unified approach to security management across all your multi-cloud and on-premises environments.

Check Point CloudGuard empowers organizations to deploy virtual instances of Check Point’s renowned security gateways within their virtualized environments. By leveraging virtual machines (VMs), CloudGuard enables the creation of virtual security gateways that function as independent and scalable security appliances. This approach allows for the consolidation of security services and the optimization of resources, leading to cost savings and improved operational efficiency.

CloudGuard facilitates the allocation of compute, memory, and network resources to the virtual security gateways based on the specific requirements of the network environment. This dynamic resource allocation enables organizations to scale their security functions up or down based on network demands, ensuring optimal performance and efficient resource utilization. As network traffic fluctuates, CloudGuard automatically adjusts the allocated resources, providing flexibility and scalability to match changing security needs.

Who is it recommended for?

This system is a good option for companies that use cloud services for Web applications, such as AWS Lambda and Kubernetes-guided container systems. The system provides protection from advanced persistent threats (APT) and insider threats by spotting anomalous behavior in access to cloud accounts.


  • Cloud Security Blueprints provide security templates for preset security
  • Performs access segmentation for cloud services
  • Provided for data centers


  • No price list

CloudGuard seamlessly integrates with popular virtualization and orchestration systems such as VMware, OpenStack, and others. This integration streamlines the deployment, management, and automation of virtual security gateways, simplifying the overall administration of the virtualized network security infrastructure.

6. Juniper Contrail Service Orchestration (CSO)

Juniper Contrail Service Orchestration (CSO)

Juniper Contrail Service Orchestration is a robust software platform that serves as a bridge for a wide range of enterprise and multi-tenant service provider solutions, including secure SD-WAN, Network Functions Virtualization (NFV), and telco cloud, among others. This versatile platform is available as both an on-premises product and a cloud-managed service.

Key Features:

  • Service management
  • Telco services
  • Infrastructure coordination

Why do we recommend it?

Juniper Contrail Service Orchestration is a management console for multiple Infrastructure-as-a-Service packages, which includes NFVs. The tool lets different IaaS platforms interact and exchange data. Think of this as SOAR for cloud systems. It receives input from various cloud services and can adjust infrastructure according to potential demand or shutdown activity that appears to be threatening.

CSO acts as a comprehensive management and orchestration platform specifically designed for NFV deployments. It facilitates the automation and simplification of NFV lifecycle management, providing operators with powerful tools to streamline the provisioning, configuration, scaling, and monitoring of virtual network services.

CSO plays a vital role in designing, securing, automating, and managing the complete life cycle of SD-WAN services. CSO leverages Juniper Networks’ Contrail Networking technology, an SDN controller, as its foundation. Contrail Networking provides network virtualization and overlay capabilities, while CSO extends its functionality to address the unique requirements of NFV deployments. CSO operates through a controller-based architecture, where a centralized controller orchestrates the virtualized network functions and manages their lifecycle. The controller communicates with the underlying infrastructure, such as hypervisors and physical network elements, to provision and manage virtual resources.

CSO Key Features and Capabilities include:

  • Network orchestration and control are seamlessly automated through Zero Touch Provisioning (ZTP) and configuration templates.
  • Complete visibility into the traffic flow, security events, and policies is provided, all delivered from the cloud.
  • Efficient management of application Service Level Agreements (SLAs) with over 4500 application signatures, ensuring automated provisioning of applications and resources across various network connections and paths.
  • Integrated comprehensive security solutions from Layer 1 to 7, including next-generation firewall, content security, security intelligence, and advanced threat prevention.
  • A highly redundant platform with spoke redundancy, hub site redundancy, and multihoming capabilities.
  • Support for multiple tenants and robust role-based access control (RBAC), simplifying the process of serving and managing multiple customers.

Who is it recommended for?

This system is suitable for use by businesses that run their own services as SaaS platforms. The package will adjust resource usage according to projected capacity requirements. Thus, potentially, it can enable businesses to pair down their reserved capacity in the knowledge that expansions can be added on instantly.


  • Automated resource capacity adjustments
  • Security monitoring
  • Coordinates different IaaS packages


  • No price list

CSO seamlessly integrates with SRX Series next-generation firewalls and NFX Series Network Services Platforms, ensuring comprehensive and efficient service delivery. Additionally, it federates with Mist Cloud, enabling seamless management of Wi-Fi networks. The platform also acts as a service orchestrator for the vSRX Virtual Firewall, which is accessible through popular public cloud marketplaces like Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure. A live demo of Juniper CSO is available on request.

7. Nokia CloudBand

Nokia CloudBand

Nokia CloudBand is a cloud management and orchestration platform designed to enable network operators to efficiently deploy and manage virtualized network functions (VNFs) and services. It provides the necessary infrastructure and tools to build, deliver, and operate cloud-based services in a scalable and automated manner.

Key Features:

  • Maps virtualizations to containers
  • Useful for microservice delivery
  • Supports 5G

Why do we recommend it?

Nokia CloudBand provides migration for virtualized network services to container-based systems. This is a necessary step to reach over 5G networks but not for your existing customers. So, you might need to run both virtualized systems and container services simultaneously.

Nokia’s CloudBand software is a highly adopted solution for ETSI NFV MANO (Management and Orchestration), known for its established track record of reliability, automation, repeatability, and security. The CloudBand portfolio offered by Nokia simplifies the hosting, orchestration, automation, and management of Virtual Network Functions (VNFs). It has a wide deployment base, managing tens of thousands of servers across over 200 service providers worldwide.

At the core of Nokia CloudBand lies the Infrastructure Software, which provides the foundation for virtualization and cloud computing. It offers essential capabilities such as hypervisor support and management functions, enabling operators to efficiently deploy and manage VNFs on standard hardware infrastructure.

The CloudBand Application Manager module is responsible for the seamless deployment and lifecycle management of VNFs and cloud applications. Through automation and orchestration, it enables operators to effortlessly scale, heal, and upgrade services. The Application Manager ensures the reliable and efficient operation of VNFs, enhancing service agility and reducing manual intervention. The CloudBand Management System acts as a centralized control hub, offering operators a unified view and management interface for the entire CloudBand environment.

Who is it recommended for?

Running network services over containers instead of virtual networks is a requirement of implementing 5G, so you could be presented with a headache trying to remap all of your infrastructure if you want to upgrade the connection type on your Telco infrastructure. This is particularly important if you want to run connections out to mobile devices.


  • Simplifies dual infrastructure
  • Live remapping of all underlying technology according to infrastructure requirements
  • Incidental security scanning


  • While hiding the supporting infrastructure, this package could leave you stranded if it fails

Through its multi-vendor support, scalability, reliability, and strong security measures, CloudBand enables operators to deliver cutting-edge network services while ensuring a seamless and secure experience for their customers.