An Engineer's Journey into Network Function Virtualization & 5G Research

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An Engineer's Journey into Network Function Virtualization & 5G Research

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Softwarization (using software to provide functionality previously performed by hardware) has been driving developments in the computer networking field for more than a decade. Two examples of this are SDN (software-defined networking) and NFV (network function virtualization). Both of these play important roles in ushering in new technologies such as 5G (5th generation standards for high-speed cellular networks).Ever-increasing NIC (network interface card) data transfer rates necessitate improvements in NFV system design in order to avoid degrading throughput. This thesis introduces NFlambda and summarizes my contributions to it as well as the 5G-Tracker project. NFlambda is an NFV framework designed to facilitate efficient scaling of virtual network functions (VNFs) so that they can operate at line rates in excess of 100Gbps using commodity hardware. To achieve this in practice (i.e. without artificiallycontriving the traffic profile or using unrealistically simple VNFs) it becomes essential to avoid the timing penalties imposed by having to access the last level cache (LLC) or main memory. NFlambda achieves this primarily by decomposing VNFs into finer-grained components, which can be scaled independently and, in many cases, avoid having to share their state among multiple instances (running on separate CPU cores). Several key contributions that I made to this work are: adding support for YAML-based configuration, developing a proof-of-concept protocol for integrating an external controller, automating experiment design & execution, and assisting with the implementation of an IPsec VNF. 5G-Tracker is a crowd-sourced system for collecting and analyzing data related to commercial 5G network deployments. It can be used to build coverage maps, identify contextual factors affecting performance, and more. My work on this project focused on the development and documentation of the API used by the mobile application to communicate with back-end servers and the design of a web interface to support collaboration among researchers using the platform.


University of Minnesota M.S. thesis. May 2021. Major: Computer Science. Advisor: Zhi-Li Zhang. 1 computer file (PDF); v, 46 pages.

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Quant, Jacob. (2021). An Engineer's Journey into Network Function Virtualization & 5G Research. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

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