Multi-Timescale Online Optimization of Network Function Virtualization for Service Chaining

Xiaojing Chen, Wei Ni, Tianyi Chen, Iain B. Collings, Xin Wang, Ren Ping Liu, Georgios B. Giannakis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Scopus citations


Network Function Virtualization (NFV) can cost-efficiently provide network services by running different virtual network functions (VNFs) at different virtual machines (VMs) in a correct order. This can result in strong couplings between the decisions of the VMs on the placement and operations of VNFs. This paper presents a new fully decentralized online approach for optimal placement and operations of VNFs. Building on a new stochastic dual gradient method, our approach decouples the real-time decisions of VMs, asymptotically minimizes the time-average cost of NFV, and stabilizes the backlogs of network services with a cost-backlog tradeoff of [ϵ,1/ϵ], for any ϵ>0. Our approach can be relaxed into multiple timescales to have VNFs (re)placed at a larger timescale and hence alleviate service interruptions. While proved to preserve the asymptotic optimality, the larger timescale can slow down the optimal placement of VNFs. A learn-and-adapt strategy is further designed to speed the placement up with an improved tradeoff [ϵ,log2(ϵ)/ϵ]. Numerical results show that the proposed method is able to reduce the time-average cost of NFV by 23 percent and reduce the queue length (or delay) by 74 percent, as compared to existing benchmarks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number8570806
Pages (from-to)2899-2912
Number of pages14
JournalIEEE Transactions on Mobile Computing
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019



  • Network function virtualization
  • distributed optimization
  • stochastic approximation
  • virtual machine

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