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An Architecture for Network Function Virtualization


Today’s networks provide more than connectivity. Network functions such as firewalls, caches, WAN optimizers play a crucial role in improving security and performance capabilities. Although network functions traditionally have been implemented as dedicated hardware middleboxes, a recent effort commonly referred to as Network Function Virtualization (NFV) promises to bring the advantages of cloud computing to network packet processing by moving network appliance functionality from proprietary hardware to software. However, while NFV has quickly gained remarkable momentum in the industry, accepted NFV approaches are merely replacing monolithic hardware with monolithic software.

In this dissertation, we argue that current approaches to NFV are ill-suited to the original vision of NFV. Instead, NFV needs a framework that serves as a common runtime for network functions. We present E2 – an NFV framework that provides placement and elastic scaling with high-level network function composition interface. We further consider the privacy challenge of outsourcing NFV deployments in public clouds and present a functional cryptographic technique for privacy-preserving packet classification. Finally, we discuss optimizing NF data-plane scheduling for performance guarantees.

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