Leveraging SDN Layering to Systematically Troubleshoot Networks

TitleLeveraging SDN Layering to Systematically Troubleshoot Networks
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsHeller B, Scott C, McKeown N, Shenker S, Wundsam A, Zeng H, Whitlock S, Jeyakumar V, Handigol N, McCauley M, Zarifis K, Kazemian P
Other Numbers3430

Today’s networks are maintained by “masters of complexity”:network admins who have accumulated the wisdom to troubleshootcomplex problems, despite a limiting toolset. Thisposition paper advocates a more structured troubleshootingapproach that leverages architectural layering in Software-Defined Networks (SDNs). In all networks, high-level intent(policy) must correctly map to low-level forwarding behavior(hardware configuration). In SDNs, intent is explicitlyexpressed, forwarding semantics are explicitly defined,and each architectural layer fully specifies the behavior ofthe network. Building on these observations, we show howrecently-developed troubleshooting tools fit into a coherentworkflow that detects mistranslations between layers to preciselylocalize sources of errant control logic. Our goals areto explain the overall picture, show how the pieces fit togetherto enable a systematic workflow, and highlight thequestions that remain. Once this workflow is realized, networkadmins can formally verify that their network is operatingcorrectly, automatically troubleshoot bugs, and systematicallytrack down their root cause – freeing admins tofix problems, rather than diagnose their symptoms.


This research is supported by NSF grants CNS-1040838,CNS-1015459, CNS-1040190 (NEBULA), CNS-0832820(POMI), and CNS-1040593 (FIA), as well as the Open NetworkingResearch Center (ONRC).

Bibliographic Notes

Proceedings of ACM SIGCOMM Workshop on Hot Topics in Software Defined Networking (HotSDN '13), Hong Kong, China

Abbreviated Authors

B. Heller, C. Scott, N. McKeown, S. Shenker, A. Wundsam, H. Zeng, S. Whitlock, V. Jeyakumar, N. Handigol, M. McCauley, K. Zarifis and P. Kazemian

ICSI Research Group

Networking and Security

ICSI Publication Type

Article in conference proceedings