Speaker: Nick McKeown
Kleiner Perkins, Mayfield, and Sequoia
Professor, Faculty Director of the Open
Networking Research Center;
Electrical Engineering and Computer
Science, Stanford University
Title: Software Defined Networks and Streamlining the Plumbing
One consequence of software defined networking (SDN) is that it clearly defines the role of the switches. Essentially, a switch only needs to do four things: (1) parse each packet header to find the fields it is interested in, then (2) match on those fields, yielding (3) rules to modify the packet, and finally (4) forward each packet to its next hop. Put another way, we can abstract packet forwarding as a set of "parse-match-action" processing steps, whether we are describing a simple Ethernet switch that plumbs servers together in a data center, or a router that aggregates enormous amounts of traffic together in a WAN. The "parse-match-action" forwarding model has two nice consequences that I'll describe in the talk. First, it tells us why programmable NPUs (network processors) were the wrong model for building packet switches. Instead of a sea of hard-to program Turing-complete processors, we just need a very fast, simple, RISC-like hardware pipeline that implements the "parse-match-action" model. I will describe such a design. Second, now we have an abstract model of forwarding, we can verify that the forwarding plane is doing what we originally intended. This allows us to bring in a vast swathe of formal verification and debugging techniques from other fields. I believe that in 20 years, we will look back and recognize this as the time network plumbing got dramatically simpler and less error prone.
McKeown’s current research interests include software defined networks (SDN), how to enable more rapid improvements to the Internet infrastructure, and tools and platforms for networking research and teaching. He has cofounded a number of companies and the Open Networking Foundation (ONF) in 2011. McKeown is a member of the US National Academy of Engineerin(NAE), a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering (UK), Fellow of the IEEE and the ACM. He has been awarded the British Computer Society Lovelace Medal, the IEEE Kobayashi Computer and Communications Award and the ACM Sigcomm Lifetime Achievement Award.
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