Virtualization of network functions (NFV) and software-defined networking (SDN) have been revolutionizing the practice of networking. Control functions at increasingly lower levels of the networking stack are getting offloaded to remote controller platforms for ease of management. At the same time, software middleboxes are being used to deploy data plane processing elements when and where they are needed. The increasing flexibility with which both the network control and data plane can be managed encourages us to reconsider how network functions should be implemented and where they should reside.
As cloud platforms are becoming closer and more ubiquitously available, offloading/outsourcing lower-than-application-layer functionality (e.g., routing, filtering, traffic engineering) to cloud platforms opens a new dimension to networking. Edge-clouds will provide mobile customers low latency access to geographically distributed cloud resources, opening new options for traffic management and flow processing. Clouds providing network functions “as a service”, potentially at packet levels, will enable optimizations across autonomous systems. Going beyond offloading the computation and memory complexity of network components to remote platforms, NFV on commodity cloud platforms can facilitate solutions and optimizations spanning multiple data-centers and networks. Clearly, the cloud will have a growing role by assisting to provide complex network functions at increasingly lower levels.
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