NIST is working to develop test and measurement techniques to advance the state of the art in network virtualization, network service function chaining, software defined networks, technologies and techniques to address robustness safety and security of virtualized network services. Explore novel applications of NFV/SDN to domains such as network security and intrusion detection, support of machine to machine communications, support of advanced mobility and cloud computing.
Data networks have enabled extraordinary growth in capabilities such as email, the web, and social media; and today form the technical basis for our information-centric economy. However, current network architectures and processes for technical evolution cannot support the complexity and pace innovation in emerging applications such as Virtualized / Cloud Computing, Internet of Things, ubiquitous Mobile Computing and Big Data Analytics. Today’s industry norm of deploying special purpose, fixed-function hardware appliances (e.g., routers, switches, firewalls, load balancers) that implement standardized protocols no longer scales with the required pace of innovation for new services, nor the economics of modern virtualized computing. In today’s networking industry, these barriers to innovation result in lead times of years to design and develop new network services and require tremendous capital and operational expenses to deploy and operate new network functions.
In response, the industry has developed new initiatives in Network Function Virtualization (NFV) and Software Defined Networking (SDN). These are radical departures from today’s industry norms, in that they abstract the implementation of new network functions and decouple them from specific hardware platforms and topological constraints (i.e., the location in a network where functions/services must be deployed). In essence, NFV/SDN make the network itself “programmable,” offering the promise of rapid innovation of network services customized and tightly integrated with specific application domains. NFV/SDN will enable the networking industry to follow the same virtualization model that cloud computing has successfully demonstrated with both cost savings and business growth measured in the billions of dollars. The results of NFV/SDN research and development are creating fundamentally new measurement challenges in network behavior, software quality, and security properties of dynamically composed, programmable networks. Given the critical position of basic network control systems, the need to accurately measure and thoroughly test the safety, robustness, security, and performance of software defined networks will be paramount in ensuring the success of these technologies use in future mission/business-critical networks.
Industry and academic leaders started the NFV/SDN movement to change the economics and complexity of network innovation. The Open Network Foundation, and the Open Network Research Center were established to research and define SDN and to create an open market for network control functions that can be tightly coupled with the changing technical requirements of specific applications and services. Recently other industry research groups  and standards bodies, have emerged to address the issues of programming languages and virtualized computing infrastructures for the implementation, composition and management of these new network control applications.
Virtualized networking to support vast data centers was the initial commercial force driving SDN/NFV, with network switch, hypervisor, and cloud service vendors driving the pace and the direction of innovation. The realization of the power and potential of “opening up” networking platforms and enabling the seamless integration of programmable networks and applications set off a series of billion dollar acquisitions and triggered even broader efforts by the industry to commoditize network hardware platforms and software environments. Today the potential applications software defined virtual networks range from global telecommunications to completely software defined data centers. Current market analyses project the NFV/SDN market to reach $100B by 2020.
While this revolution in networking industry has great potential, there are numerous test and measurement challenges that must be met to ensure that SDNs are robust and secure enough to meet the mission critical requirements of our information-centric society. To date, the potential of dramatic cost reductions coupled with rapid feature innovation is driving aggressive early deployment of NFV/SDN technologies well before their behavioral properties are well understood. The existing technologies for distributed routing and switching control protocols (that NFV/SDN technologies will displace) are the result of decades of research and development experience focused on robustness, security and scalability. Failure to devote significant effort to development of the measurement techniques necessary to characterize, predict and control the robustness and security properties of software defined networks could result in significant technical and market-place failures going forward. NIST is uniquely positioned to address these issues for the networking industry.
The NIST program will focus on the robustness, safety and security of NFV/SDN technology and its potential disruptive application to national priority initiatives. The following key activities/outcomes are planned for the first 3 years:
Network Function Virtualization and Software Defined Networking is a dramatic shift in the way network technology will be defined, developed and deployed in the future. NIST must develop the capability to contribute measurement science to emerging standards in this area. In addition there is a need to explore the potential application of this new paradigm to other network-centric initiatives of national importance. By focusing on IoT, NIST will explore the potential for NFV/SDN to be a disruptive technology in initiatives such as public safety, energy conservation, transportation, and e-Healthcare.
 Internet Matters: The Net’s Sweeping Impact on Growth, Jobs and Prosperity; http://www.mckinsey.com/industries/high-tech/our-insights/internet-matters
 ONF Membership; https://www.opennetworking.org/membership/member-listing
 ETSI Network Functions Virtualization; http://www.etsi.org/technologies-clusters/technologies/nfv
 ETSI NFV Membership; http://portal.etsi.org/TBSiteMap/NFV/NFVMembership.aspx
 VMware to Acquire Nicira; https://www.vmware.com/company/news/releases/vmw-nicira-07-23-12
 2015 SDxCentral SDN and NFV Market Size Report; https://www.sdxcentral.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/SDxCentral-SDN-NFV-Market-Size-Report-2015-A.pdf