2010 Poster Sessions : Carving Research Slices Out of Your Production Network

Student Name : Rob Sherwood
Advisor : Nick McKeown
Research Areas: Computer Systems
A persistent problem in computer network research is validation. When deciding how to evaluate a new feature or bug fix, a researcher or operator must trade-off realism (in terms of scale, actual user traffic, real equipment) and cost (larger scale costs more money, real user traffic likely requires downtime, and real equipment requires vendor adoption which can take years). Building a realistic testbed is hard because ``real'' networking takes place on closed, commercial switches and routers with special purpose hardware. But if we build our testbed from software switches, they run several orders of magnitude slower. Even if we build a realistic network testbed, it is hard to scale, because it is special purpose and is in addition to the regular network. It needs its own location, support and dedicated links. For a testbed to have global reach takes investment beyond the reach of most researchers.

In this poster we describe a way to build a testbed that is embedded in the network, and grows with it. The technique---embodied in our first prototype, FlowVisor---slices the network hardware by placing a layer between the control plane and the data plane. A production network can then be sliced, with legacy protocols running in their own protected slice, alongside experiments created by researchers. The basic idea is that if unmodified hardware supports some basic primitives(in our prototype, OpenFlow, but others are possible), then a worldwide testbed can ride on the coat-tails of deployments, at no extra expense.

Rob Sherwood is a visiting scholar from Deutsche Telekom Inc. R&D lab. He is working at Stanford as part of the Clean Slate Laboratory working with Nick McKeown and Guru Parulkar on the OpenFlow project. In addition to his work in Clean Slate Internet research, he has always worked in network measurement and network security. He graduated with his PhD from University of Maryland in 2008.