Faucet – Enterprise SDN from an office to multi-terabit SCinet at SC18


This post is written by ESnet Director, Inder Monga, and shared through a personal lens, other perspectives may vary

I wanted to share a remarkable effort happening in the field of networking that is going to be shown in production at the Supercomputing 2018 as part of SCinet. Most of the people working in the SC booths (or even at SCinet) may never realize the role they are playing in moving the field of networking to the next level. Let me share some history [and you can skip the Background section to go straight to the main essence of the blog], and talk about the international, collaborative effort at play here.

Background: my software-driven journey

This is being shared by the perspective of the writer’s journey, other perspectives may vary

From the early 2000’s, the dream that excited me was building software layer that would manage networks and expose the network black-box as a set of ‘knobs and dials’ that applications could use to request and customize for their purposes. A small group of us at Nortel Networks came up with an idea of CO2 aka Content over Optics in 2001 – see the slide below.

This excitement was very new and led to my most productive set of patents filed during that time. Just as the concept was taking hold, an innovative research and education network, SURFnet, decided to deploy this concept on their newly built network, and the name evolved from CO2 to DRAC aka Dynamic Resource Allocation Controller.

Independently, ESnet was on a similar journey and started working on a concept called OSCARS aka ‘On-demand Secure Circuits and Reservation System’. As the community coalesced on the same direction, multiple initiatives like OSCARS, UCLP, DRAC, MANTICORE and others started merging towards an aligned software-driven network journey for the WAN. In the meantime, the Openflow effort from Stanford driven by an enterprise-based architecture, Ethane, captured the hearts of many, and the ‘Software-Defined Network’ (SDN) wave was born.


I am going to skip discussing the twists and turns of the evolution of SDN in industry, where there have been many recent articles on whether OpenFlow is dead. In fact there is a grassroots and under-the-radar SDN/Openflow effort that started in New Zealand called Faucet that proves these concepts are still alive and well, and are poised to thrive! In fact this work recently won the award in the New Zealand Open Source Software Project Award.

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Faucet at ESnet

Ever since I was invited to join the Faucet Foundation Board, I was insistent that I ‘eat my own dog food’. With the help of Josh Bailey and Simeon Miteff, I began running a faucet controlled switch (OpenFlow is not dead) in my office as my only bridge into the Lab’s network and the Internet, i.e. if faucet did not work, I could not get connected! I am proud to say that other than one small self-inflicted upgrading glitch, the system has been working seamlessly over the past year no matter what I do or use in the office. You can see the couple of raspberry PIs running the SDN controller working with a commercial off-the-shelf switch in the image below.

[I wish it was cleaner picture, but I had to get everything together to click a photograph without my desk in the way.]

Then my colleague, Nick Buraglio, and I decided, why not wire our satellite branch office with faucet based networking than buy traditional switches? With Josh (Bailey)’s help, Nick has now wired the lives of eight of ESnet’s key employees to be dependent on faucet and he has been having a blast (no downtime there either)! Read more about his journey on his own private blog: http://www.forwardingplane.net/2018/11/faucet-enterprise-openflow-in-production/

Faucet at SCinet, SC18

I may have led you on and will keep the suspense on for a bit longer….Faucet is being showcased in SCinet as production SDN controller managing a portion of the booth networks. SC18 is in two weeks and I encourage all of you to stop by SCinet to see it working! Reach out to the faucet champions – Josh Bailey, Brad Cowie, Richard Nelson, Nick Buraglio and Kate Mace who can talk you through the intricacies of the faucet deployment there. Poseidon, as you see printed on one of the raspberry pi’s in the image above, is also being featured at SC as it integrates learning and security with faucet.

More details on this topic will be available after SC is over. In the meantime, do check out Nick’s blog for the engineering details. An image from the recent multi-vendor plugfest at SCinet staging in Dallas to – yes, vendors support this.

Look forward to seeing you all in Dallas as all of us continue on this journey

Inder