Survey on network virtualization hypervisors for software defined networking

Andreas Blenk, Arsany Basta, Martin Reisslein, Wolfgang Kellerer

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

245 Scopus citations


Software defined networking (SDN) has emerged as a promising paradigm for making the control of communication networks flexible. SDN separates the data packet forwarding plane, i.e., the data plane, from the control plane and employs a central controller. Network virtualization allows the flexible sharing of physical networking resources by multiple users (tenants). Each tenant runs its own applications over its virtual network, i.e., its slice of the actual physical network. The virtualization of SDN networks promises to allow networks to leverage the combined benefits of SDN networking and network virtualization and has therefore attracted significant research attention in recent years. A critical component for virtualizing SDN networks is an SDN hypervisor that abstracts the underlying physical SDN network into multiple logically isolated virtual SDN networks (vSDNs), each with its own controller. We comprehensively survey hypervisors for SDN networks in this paper. We categorize the SDN hypervisors according to their architecture into centralized and distributed hypervisors. We furthermore sub-classify the hypervisors according to their execution platform into hypervisors running exclusively on general-purpose compute platforms, or on a combination of general-purpose compute platforms with general- or special-purpose network elements. We exhaustively compare the network attribute abstraction and isolation features of the existing SDN hypervisors. As part of the future research agenda, we outline the development of a performance evaluation framework for SDN hypervisors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number7295561
Pages (from-to)655-685
Number of pages31
JournalIEEE Communications Surveys and Tutorials
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016


  • Centralized hypervisor
  • Distributed hypervisor
  • Multi-tenancy
  • Network attribute abstraction
  • Network attribute isolation
  • Network virtualization
  • Software defined networking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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