Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Stanford's Nick McKeon: Making SDNs Work

"Indeed, the world has just changed in the way that we design and build networks," said Nick McKeown, Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Stanford, in reference to Google's announcement that it has leveraged software defined networking (SDN) to link its data centers.

Dr. McKeown, who has led much of the software defined networking projects at Stanford University, said that as the industry moves to a horizontal integration model with open interfaces, we will all be better off for it. The new abstraction layers enable a global view of the network and this will open up new opportunities.

McKeown's talk at the Open Networking Summit in Santa Clara, California focused on how SDN can allow us to verify that networks are behaving correctly, to identify bugs, find their causes and root them out. Other industries, such as semiconductors, have many processes to de-bug errors before the product is delivered. To date, the networking industry has been fairly poor in preventing problems. Administrators face a maze of complexity in understanding how things are really performing.

McKeown highlight projects underway at Stanford to enable SDN with independent and automatic network checking and de-bugging. SDN can be used to detect hardware error (memory or ASICS), link failure, or malicious programs that violate network policies. Automatic Test Packet Generation leverages a minimum set of test packets to verify every rule in every table. These test packets can find any failure and isolate its cause. It only takes 4,000 packets sent by end-hosts or switches to verify 750,000 rules. This means the network could self-test 10x per second using less than 1% of link utilization.

Slides from this presentation have been posted to the Open Networking Summit website. http://opennetsummit.org