This is an exciting time for the area of network innovation. While the demands for more and faster connectivity continue to increase, there are significant developments that are facilitating the development of new solutions to meet these demands.
Software Defined Networking (SDN) is a term used to describe a new paradigm for networking designed to enable rapid innovation. A core concept of SDN is that by creating a few carefully chosen abstractions, you can hide much of the complexity of the underlying components and make it easier to develop and deploy new solutions. Some of the key aspects of SDN include:
- Separation of forwarding and control planes
- A standard, vendor-agnostic interface to program network hardware
- Logically centralized control-plane or Network Operating System that constructs a logical map of the entire network and presents it via an API to application developers.
- Virtualization where multiple network operation systems can control “slices” of the same hardware device. This is a key differentiator of SDN and a focal point for many compelling use cases.
OpenFlow is an open standards-based protocol for implementing SDNs. The OpenFlow API provides a common interface for interacting with packet-forwarding hardware. OpenFlow is designed to allow the control-plane software to exist on a physically separate device from the packet-forwarding hardware. This makes it possible for a single control program to interact with many different switches. This control-plane software that controls multiple switches is commonly referred to as a “controller”, but is also called the “network operating system”. At Georgia Tech, we have been working on SDN and OpenFlow for several years. The primary theme for our work on SDN is around policy management. We are interested in new approaches to tackling the real-world network management problems that arise from trying to implement data policies using the blunt instruments available today such as VLANs and various security appliances. We are interested in fine-grained policy control including policy specification, implementation and auditing. We have pursued this work through projects in network access control systems (e.g. Resonance) and policy languages that have been demonstrated at the GENI Engineering Conferences.
Focus Areas and Use Cases
- Enterprise Network Management: Leveraging SDN for improved manageability and visibility of enterprise networks. Of particular interest is the creation of troubleshooting tools and network environments that increase the end-user's ability to discover and correct problems.
- Media Networks: The use of SDN in both content acquisition and content distribution. One objective is to reduce total traffic volumes by keeping it localized or improved content sharing by supporting distributed content modification (e.g. ad insertion) at various points in the network including regional providers and home networks.
- Big Data and Analytics: The use of SDN for dynamic network infrastructure to support the increasing number of Big Data and Cloud research efforts on campus. This includes both data access policy management as well as dynamic data conversion and analysis.
- Home Networking: We are actively developing and deploying SDN-based home routers that support features like traffic prioritization and device-specific bandwidth limitations. There are several platforms you could work with to do real deployments in this space. This work has a particular emphasis on the user experience with research in new user interface paradigms.
- Mobile Devices in the Enterprise: The Bring Your Own Device trend has created unique challenges for both enterprise network operators and carriers. You should explore SDN-based solutions for both policy around personal devices in the enterprise and for providing Wi-Fi offload for cellular customers.
- SDN-based Peering: SDN has the potential to provide a more flexible, more predictable inter-domain routing behavior. While much of the current SDN field is focused on the data center or local network, this work looks specifically into the possible uses of SDN for a clean-slate approach to inter-domain routing with peering policies based on a richer set of application and data flow attributes.