A Comprehensive Survey of Network Function Virtualization


Today's networks are filled with a massive and ever-growing variety of network functions that coupled with proprietary devices, which leads to network ossification and difficulty in network management and service provision. Network Function Virtualization (NFV) is a promising paradigm to change such situation by decoupling network functions from the underlying dedicated hardware and realizing them in the form of software, which are referred to as Virtual Network Functions (VNFs). Such decoupling introduces many benefits which include reduction of Capital Expenditure (CAPEX) and Operation Expense (OPEX), improved flexibility of service provision, etc. In this paper, we intend to present a comprehensive survey on NFV, which starts from the introduction of NFV motivations. Then, we explain the main concepts of NFV in terms of terminology, standardization and history, and how NFV differs from traditional middle-box based network. After that, the standard NFV architecture is introduced using a bottom up approach, based on which the corresponding use cases and solutions are also illustrated. In addition, due to the decoupling of network functionalities and hardware, people's attention is gradually shifted to the VNFs. Next, we provide an extensive and in-depth discussion on state-of-the-art VNF algorithms including VNF placement, scheduling, migration, chaining and multicast. Finally, to accelerate the NFV deployment and avoid pitfalls as far as possible, we survey the challenges faced by NFV and the trend for future directions. In particular, the challenges are discussed from bottom up, which include hardware design, VNF deployment, VNF life cycle control, service chaining, performance evaluation, policy enforcement, energy efficiency, reliability and security, and the future directions are discussed around the current trend towards network softwarization.


Computer Science

Research Center/Lab(s)

Intelligent Systems Center

Second Research Center/Lab

Center for High Performance Computing Research


This work is supported by the Major International(Regional) Joint Research Project of NSFC under Grant No. 71620107003, the National Natural Science Foundation of China under Grant No. 61572123, the National Science Foundation for Distinguished Young Scholars of China under Grant No. 71325002, the Foundation for Innovative Research Groups of National Science Foundation of China under Grant No. 61621004, and the MoE and ChinaMobile Joint Research Fund under No. MCM20160201.

Keywords and Phrases

Algorithms; Energy efficiency; Hardware; Internet service providers; Life cycle; Software defined networking; Surveys; Transfer functions; Virtual reality; Virtualization; Capital expenditures; Decoupling network; Dedicated hardware; In-network management; Network functionality; Policy enforcement; Service provisions; Virtual networks; Network function virtualization; Network softwarization; Virtual network function

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)


Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version


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© 2018 Elsevier, All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Mar 2018