Intent-Based Networking with Programmable Data Planes

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Abstract

Switches that can be (re)programmed through the network programming language P4 are able to completely change – even while in the field – the way they process packets. While powerful, P4 code is inherently static, as it is written and installed to accommodate a particular network requirement. Writing new P4 code each time new requirements arise may be complex and limits our agility to deal with changes in network traffic and services. To solve that problem, we present two frameworks within this work: P4I/O and GP4P4. P4I/O is a new approach to data-plane programmability based on the philosophy of Intent-Based Networking. P4I/O provides an intent-driven interface that can be used to install and/or remove P4 programs on the switches when needed and which is easy to use. In particular, to realize P4I/O, we (1) describe an extensible Intent Definition Language (IDL), (2) create a repository of P4 code templates, which are parsed and merged based on the intents, (3) provide a technique to realize the resulting P4 program in a programmable switch, while accommodating intent modifications at any time, and finally (4) implement a proof-of-concept to demonstrate that intent modifications can be done on-the-fly. Our second framework, GP4P4, is a genetic programming approach able to autonomously generate programs for P4-programmable switches directly from network intents. We demonstrate that GP4P4 is able to generate various network functions in up to a few minutes; an important first step towards realizing the vision of ‘Self-Driving’ networks.