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System Design and Implementation for Hybrid Network Function Virtualization

With the application of virtualization technology in computer networks, many new research areas and techniques have been explored, such as network function virtualization (NFV). A significant benefit of virtualization is that it reduces the cost of a network system and increases its flexibility. Due to the increasing complexity of the network environment and constantly improving network scale and bandwidth, it is imperative to aim for higher performance, extensibility, and flexibility in the future network systems. In this dissertation, hybrid NFV platforms applying virtualization technology are proposed. We further explore the techniques used to improve the performance, scalability and resilience of these systems. In the first part of this dissertation, we describe a new heterogeneous hardware-software NFV platform that provides scalability and programmability while supporting significant hardware-level parallelism and reconfiguration. Our computing platform takes advantage of both field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) and microprocessors to implement numerous virtual network functions (VNFs) that can be dynamically customized to specific network flow needs. Traffic management and hardware reconfiguration functions are performed by a global coordinator which allows for the rapid sharing of network function states and continuous evaluation of network function needs. With the help of state sharing mechanism offered by the coordinator, customer-defined VNF instances can be easily migrated between heterogeneous middleboxes as the network environment changes. A resource allocation algorithm dynamically assesses resource deployments as network flows and conditions are updated. In the second part of this thesis document, we explore a new session-level approach for NFV that implements distributed agents in heterogeneous middleboxes to steer packets belonging to different sessions through session-specific service chains. Our session-level approach supports inter-domain service chaining with both FPGA- and processor-based middleboxes, dynamic reconfiguration of service chains for ongoing sessions, and the application of session-level approaches for UDP-based protocols. To demonstrate our approach, we establish inter-domain service chains for QUIC sessions, and reconfigure the service chains across a range of FPGA- and processor-based middleboxes. We show that our session-level approach can successfully reconfigure service chains for individual QUIC sessions. Compared with software implementations, the distributed agents implemented on FPGAs show better performance in various test scenarios.
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