Taking Programmability Down to the Wire


(T) Finally, I was able to attend a talk from Stanford University Professor Nick Mckeown last month at the Silicon Valley SDN meet-up. Professor Mckeown, with Martin Casado (one of his Ph.D. students), and Teemu Koponen are the beautiful minds behind the initial concepts of Software Defined Networks (SDNs). While the key idea of SDN is programmability of the control plane, Professor Mckeown is now evangelizing the next logical step after SDN: programmability of the data plane through the P4 (Programming Protocol-Independent Packet Processors) language.

P4 will enable a new generation of data plane architecture called PISA (Protocol Independent Switch Architecture). Programmability of the data plane will bring many new benefits namely:

  • Easy addition of new protocols
  • Easy removal of unused protocols
  • Flexible use of data forwarding tables
  • Greater visibility into the switching fabric: diagnostic, telemetry, OAM…
  • Developing new data forwarding mechanisms from software libraries

Will P4 and PISA have a huge impact on future network architectures as did SDN? I will let you answer that question for yourself but my guess…very likely 🙂


Note: The picture above is the logo of the Stanford workshop on P4.

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