Enabling Hardware Exploration in Software-Defined Networking: A Flexible, Portable Openflow Switch


Khan, A., & Dave, N. (2013, 28-30 April). Enabling hardware exploration in software-defined networking: a flexible, portable OpenFlow switch. Paper presented at the IEEE International Symposium on Field-Programmable Custom Computing Machines (FCCM 2013), Seattle, WA.


The OpenFlow framework allows the data plane of a network switch to be managed by a software-based controller. This enables a software-defined networking model in which sophisticated network management policies can be deployed. In this paper, we present an FPGA-based switch which is fully-compliant with OpenFlow 1.0, and meets the 10 Gbps line rate. The switch design is both modular and highly parametrized. It has generic split-transaction interfaces and isolated platform-specific features, making it both flexible for architectural exploration and portable across FPGA platforms. The flow tables in the switch can be implemented on Block RAM or DRAM without any modifications to the rest of the design. The switch has been ported to the NetFPGA-10G, the ML605 and the DE4 boards. It can be integrated with a Desktop PC via either the PCIe or the serial link, and with an FPGA-based MIPS64 softcore as a coprocessor. The latter FPGA-based switch-processor system provides an ideal platform for network research in which both the data plane and the control plane can be explored.

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