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Network virtualization refers to a broad set of technologies. Commercial solutions have been offered by the industry for years, while more recently the academic community has emphasized virtualization as an enabler for network architecture research, deployment, and experimentation. We review the entire spectrum of relevant approaches with the goal of identifying the underlying commonalities. We offer a unifying definition of the term “network virtualization” and examine existing approaches to bring out this unifying perspective. We also discuss a set of challenges and research directions that we expect to come to the forefront as network virtualization technologies proliferate.