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Try Before you Buy: SDN Emulation with (Real) Interdomain Routing. Brandon Schlinker ⋆ , Kyriakos Zarifis *, Italo Cunha ♮ , Nick Feamster † , Ethan Katz-Bassett*, and Minlan Yu* University of Southern California, California, USA ⋆

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Try Before you Buy:

SDN Emulation with (Real) Interdomain Routing

Brandon Schlinker⋆, KyriakosZarifis*, Italo Cunha♮, Nick Feamster†,Ethan Katz-Bassett*, and Minlan Yu*

University of Southern California, California, USA⋆

Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Minas Gerais, Brazil♮

Georgia Institute of Technology, Georgia, USA†

Open Networking Summit

Santa Clara, California, USA

March 2014

sdn presents new questions for network operators
SDN Presents New Questions for Network Operators

Questions in Legacy Networks:

  • Protocol(s) to Use
    • Internal Routing (IGPs: OSPF, RIP)
  • Scalability
    • BGP scalability
  • Equipment Vendor
    • Single CLI
    • Support for vendor-specific technologies

Questions in SDN Networks:

SDN uses centralized controller to make decisions and focuses on forwarding, not routing

Controller scalability, switch performance

Controller capabilities, interoperability

sdn creates new challenges for operators
SDN Creates New Challenges for Operators
  • For a Network Operator, SDN =
    • New interactions
    • New components that require redundancy
    • New scalability and management issues
  • How Does SDN Impact my Network?

Overwhelmed Network Operator

new data centers great environments for deploying sdn
New Data Centers: Great Environments for Deploying SDN
  • Greenfield environment – all new equipment purchased at once
    • Homogeneous network -- 100% SDN infrastructure
    • Built from the ground-up, no risk of downtime during setup
    • One administrative domain, little interaction with other networks
existing networks built piecemeal over multiple years
Existing Networks Built Piecemeal Over Multiple Years

Provider Started at East Coast with One Equipment Vendor

existing networks built piecemeal over multiple years1
Existing Networks Built Piecemeal Over Multiple Years

Expanded to West Coast With Different Equipment Vendor

multiple technologies support large networks
Multiple Technologies Support Large Networks
  • Different Technologies Used Across Existing Network
    • Different IGPs (OSPF, RIP), Route Reflectors for BGP scalability, Middleboxes
    • Company acquisitions, sudden growth, vendor specific technologies → heterogeneity
large networks have interactions with other networks
Large Networks Have Interactions with Other Networks
  • Multiple Points of Presence for Interacting with Other Networks
    • Interactions will continue to use BGP protocol for foreseeable future (even with SDN)
    • These interactions are important→ they define internal traffic patterns
other existing networks have similar problems
Other Existing Networks Have Similar Problems
  • Other Networks May Not Be As Large, But Will Face Similar Problems
    • ISPs, Enterprise Networks, Educational Networks, Service Providers
  • Highly Diverse Network Ecosystem
    • Lots of custom configurations, protocols, hidden interactions, outdated decisions
    • Opposite of environment typically discussed when we talk about SDN
realities of transitioning to sdn
Realities of Transitioning to SDN
  • Takes time to migrate existing networks
    • Some operators not ready to migrate portions of their network to SDN technologies
  • BGP isn’t going away soon (still need to interconnect the Internet)
  • Need Hybrid Network for Foreseeable Future
    • Need to ensure different technologies in hybrid network play nice
network operators
Network Operators….

How Does an Operator Make Sure SDN Plays Nice In Their Existing Network?

What Tools Can These Use To Understand SDN’s Impact?

mininet lacks support for emulating existing networks
Mininet Lacks Support for Emulating Existing Networks…
  • Lacks Emulation Support for Key Components in Today’s Networks:
    • Inter-domain routing (BGP between multiple AS)
    • Intra-domain routing (Legacy IGPs, such as OSPF, RIP)
  • Cannot support
  • hybrid networks
emulation limited regardless of emulator
Emulation Limited Regardless of Emulator
  • Cannot accurately emulate peer ISPs:
    • Unpredictable routes, failures, policies, topologies, business & technical goals
  • We need more than emulation...

Impossible to Emulate

mini next


Comprehensive Network Emulation of Intra-domain

combined with

Inter-domain Connectivity with Real Networks

mini next s extends mininet s emulation support
MiniNExT’s Extends Mininet’s Emulation Support
  • Extends Mininet to Support BGP and IGP Protocols
    • Now can support any network type, including hybrid networks
    • Requires significantly less resources than emulation with virtual machines
mini next goes beyond emulation with real connectivity
MiniNExTGoes Beyond Emulation with Real Connectivity

BGP Sessions Multiplexed to

Provide Real Connectivity

  • Combines Emulated Network with Real BGP Connectivity
    • Multiplexes a real network’s existing BGP sessions
    • Enables emulated and operational network to communicate with peers via BGP

Emulated with




mini next translates network 1 1 into sandbox environment
MiniNExTTranslates Network 1:1 into Sandbox Environment

Real Network



Both networks can

run at the same time



mini next combines emulated network with real bgp
MiniNExTCombines Emulated Network with Real BGP

Real BGP Sessions

Emulated with MiniNExTon a laptop

mini next enables sdn experiments
MiniNExTEnables SDN Experiments

Let’s Change The Data Center Network to SDN

mini next enables sdn experiments1
MiniNExTEnables SDN Experiments

New SDN Data Center (All Other Components The Same)

mini next helps operators assess sdn s impact
MiniNExTHelps Operators Assess SDN’s Impact

Key Takeaways on MiniNExT:

  • Enables 1:1 translation of any network into a sandbox environment
  • Helps network operators take a holistic look at how SDN will impact their networks
  • Makes it easier to define network transition plans with confidence

Additional Information on MiniNExT:

  • Talk with me here at the conference
    • Brandon Schlinker,
  • GitHub Repository: MiniNExT