Experience-driven Networking: A Deep Reinforcement Learning Based Approach

Zhiyuan Xu Syracuse University, USA
Jian Tang Syracuse University, USA
Jingsong Meng Syracuse University, USA
Weiyi Zhang AT&T Research, USA
Yanzhi Wang Syracuse University, USA
Chi Harold Liu Beijing Institute of Technology, P.R. China
Dejun Yang Colorado School of Mines, USA


Modern communication networks have become very complicated and highly dynamic, which makes them hard to model, predict and control. In this paper, we develop a novel experience-driven approach that can learn to well control a communication network from its own experience rather than an accurate mathematical model, just as a human learns a new skill (such as driving, swimming, etc). Specifically, we, for the first time, propose to leverage emerging Deep Reinforcement Learning (DRL) for enabling model-free control in communication networks; and present a novel and highly effective DRL-based control framework, DRL-TE, for a fundamental networking problem: Traffic Engineering (TE). The proposed framework maximizes a widely-used utility function by jointly learning network environment and its dynamics, and making decisions under the guidance of powerful Deep Neural Networks (DNNs). We propose two new techniques, TE-aware exploration and actor-critic-based prioritized experience replay, to optimize the general DRL framework particularly for TE. To validate and evaluate the proposed framework, we implemented it in ns-3, and tested it comprehensively with both representative and randomly generated network topologies. Extensive packet-level simulation results show that 1) compared to several widely-used baseline methods, DRL-TE significantly reduces end-to-end delay and consistently improves the network utility, while offering better or comparable throughput; 2) DRL-TE is robust to network changes; and 3) DRL-TE consistently outperforms a state-of-the-art DRL method (for continuous control), Deep Deterministic Policy Gradient (DDPG), which, however, does not offer satisfying performance.

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