Columbia University Joint CS/EE Networking Seminar Series

Enabling Innovation Inside the Network

Professor Jennifer Rexford

Department of Computer Science, Princeton University

Monday, October 28th, 11:00am in Davis Auditorium, CEPSR

Abstract: Modern computer networks perform a bewildering array of tasks, from routing and traffic monitoring, to access control and server load balancing. Yet, managing these networks is unnecessarily complicated and error-prone, due to a heterogeneous mix of devices (e.g., routers, switches, firewalls, and network-address translators) with closed and proprietary configuration interfaces. The emergence of Software Defined Networking (SDN) is poised to change all this by offering a clean and open interface between networking devices and the software that controls them. In particular, many commercial switches support the OpenFlow protocol, and a number of campus, data-center, and backbone networks have deployed the new technology. Many example SDN applications (e.g., server load balancing, seamless virtual machine migration, traffic engineering, and energy-efficient networking) illustrate SDN's potential to transform future networks. Yet, while SDN makes it possible to program the network, it does not make it easy. Today's OpenFlow controllers offer very low-level APIs that mimic the underlying switch hardware. To reach SDN's full potential, we need to identify the right higher-level abstractions for creating (and composing) powerful applications. In the Frenetic project (, we are designing simple and intuitive abstractions for programming SDNs, including ways to query network state, compose application modules, and update a distributed set of switches. These abstractions substantially lower the barrier for innovating inside the network. This is joint work with the rest of the Frenetic team, including Nate Foster (Cornell), Arjun Guha (UMass-Amherst), Joshua Reich (Princeton), Cole Schlesinger (Princeton), and David Walker (Princeton).

Bio: Jennifer Rexford is the Gordon Y.S. Wu Professor of Engineering in the Computer Science Department at Princeton University. While working at AT&T Research from 1996 to 2005, she designed network-management techniques that are in daily use in AT&T's backbone network. Jennifer was chair of ACM SIGCOMM from 2003 to 2007, and currently co-chairs the advisory council of NSF's CISE directorate. She is an ACM Fellow and received ACM's Grace Murray Hopper Award for outstanding young computer professional of the year in 2005.