The topic for the 2016 edition of the KuVS summer school is Software-Defined Networking and Network Function Virtualization.
Software-Defined Networking (SDN) has been a hot topic of networking research for the last several years. It centers on the idea of replacing the distributed control of typical networks by a centralized view, changing the way networks are controlled and operated. Typical application areas of SDN are, e.g., traffic engineering in both data centre networks and wide-area networks. SDN has created considerable interest from both academia and industry, resulting in a series of conferences on the topic as well as a range of products from practically every major networks provider.
Network Function Virtualization (NFV) started out from a very practical need: Network functions, e.g., firewalls, load balancers, or other kinds of middleboxes, where typically implemented as custom-tailored hardware, fulfilling one specific function. This entailed considerable disadvantages, for example long deployment times or insufficient flexibility for routing traffic. With the advent of high-performant virtualization techniques for network devices (and not only CPU or memory, as in conventional virtualization operating system techniques), it has become possible to supplant such custom-tailored hardware with general-purpose, commodity off-the-shelf hardware. This allows to run network functions at virtually any place in a network, turning it into a manageable and moveable commodity. For example, while so far traffic had to routed towards a place in the network where a particular network function was available, now it is possible to instantiate a network function where it is needed. Thinking this concept one step further gives the vision of "Distributed Cloud Computing" (or Edge Computing) where not only highly specialized network functions are considered, but arbitrary components (e.g., web servers) are commoditized in a similar fashion.
These two techniques - SDN and NFV - are tightly linked and complement each other. SDN is a useful technique to route traffic where it is conveniently used, NFV gives flexibility where and how traffic is to be processed. Both techniques will be necessary in future networks.