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A survey of VNF forwarding graph embedding in B5G/6G networks

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With the development of heterogeneous network structure, dynamic user requests as well as complex service types and applications scenarios, current networks may not accommodate the increasingly stringent requirements. As a result, the research of the beyond fifth generation (B5G) or the sixth generation (6G) networks has been put on the agenda. In B5G/6G networks, achieving the automatic, flexible, and cost-effective orchestration and management of network resources is a significant but challenging issue. Network function virtualization (NFV), as a promising paradigm to address this issue, has received considerable attention from both industry and academia. NFV leverages the virtualization technology to decouple network functions from dedicated hardware appliances to software middleboxes or called virtual network functions (VNFs) that run on the commodity servers. The demand for a network service becomes a request for running a set of VNFs deployed on the substrate network. The requested network service is orchestrated in the form of a VNF-forwarding graph (VNF-FG). The problem of embedding the VNF-FG into the substrate network is known as VNF-FG embedding (VNF-FGE). The efficiency and the management cost of a network are highly dependent on the optimization of VNF-FGE. This paper mainly presents a survey on solving the VNF-FGE problem. To this end, we present a general formulation and several objectives of the VNF-FGE problem. In the meanwhile, we summarize its different application scenarios from four perspectives and divide the approaches into four main categories based on the optimization methods. The main challenges and potential future directions due to the appearance of B5G/6G are also discussed.

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This work is supported in part by the Major Special Program for Technical Innovation & Application Development of Chongqing Science & Technology Commission (No. CSTC 2019jscx-zdztzxX0031), the National NSFC (No. 61902044, 62072060, 61902178), the National Key R & D Program of China (No. 2018YFF0214700, 2018YFB2100100), the Chongqing Research Program of Basic Research and Frontier Technology (No. cstc2019jcyj-msxmX0589, cstc2018jcyjAX0340), the Natural Science Foundation of Jiangsu (No. BK20190295), the Leading Technology of Jiangsu Basic Research Plan (No. BK20192003), and the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Grant Agreement No. 898588.

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Zhang, B., Fan, Q., Zhang, X. et al. A survey of VNF forwarding graph embedding in B5G/6G networks. Wireless Netw (2021).

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