Software-Defined Network Management

Lecture / Panel
For NYU Community


Nick Feamster, Georgia Tech


Despite the fact that billions of people around the world increasingly rely on Internet connectivity for a wide array of applications, communications networks remain incredibly difficult to manage, troubleshoot, and secure.  Network management challenges exist in all kinds of networks; they are particularly acute in homes, where we understand very little about home network performance, let alone network management or security. The perennial challenges in network management are now coming to a head; to solve them, we must think differently about networking: a discipline that has focused almost exclusively on performance must begin thinking more about pragmatism and people. In this talk, I will first discuss the problem of troubleshooting and predicting network performance a priori (i.e., before configuration is deployed "in the wild" on a running network) and describe tools that I developed to address these problems that were used by hundreds of Internet service providers to debug their network configurations. I will then argue that, in future networks, the tools I developed wouldn't be necessary at all.

Specifically, I will describe how an emerging paradigm called software-defined networking, which decouples network control from the underlying network infrastructure, can simplify many network management tasks in different types of networks and may ultimately provide a means by which network operators (and home users) can make their networks more predictable, manageable, and secure. I will present a new framework for software-defined network control that we have developed, implemented, and deployed (in both home networks and on a large campus network) and describe how it allows network operators to express and implement complex policies in a simple and high-level control framework. I will then explore how software-defined network control may ultimately help us solve other longstanding network management problems in both security and network troubleshooting.


Nick Feamster is an associate professor in the College of Computing at Georgia Tech. He received his Ph.D. in Computer science from MIT in 2005, and his S.B. and M.Eng. degrees in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from MIT in 2000 and 2001, respectively. His research focuses on many aspects of computer networking and networked systems, including the design, measurement, and analysis of network routing protocols, network operations and security, and anonymous communication systems. In December 2008, he received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) for his contributions to cybersecurity, notably spam filtering. His honors include the Technology Review 35 "Top Young Innovators Under 35" award, a Sloan Research Fellowship, the NSF CAREER award, the IBM Faculty Fellowship, and award papers at SIGCOMM 2006 (network-level behavior of spammers), the NSDI 2005 conference (fault detection in router configuration), Usenix Security 2002 (circumventing web censorship using Infranet), and Usenix Security 2001 (web cookie analysis).