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Software-Defined Networking: the key to a scalable, manageable, and adaptable Internet

IMDEA Networks Institute

Software-Defined Networking can make the Internet scalable, manageable, and adaptable at an industry-grade level, according to a recent research study led by scientists from the Madrid research institute IMDEA Networks.

While the origins of Software-Defined Networking (SDN) date back to the 90’s, it has only recently gained popularity. SDN replaces the traditional distributed control of networks by a central management center, which can take control decisions that are more informed and hence more efficient. Researchers at IMDEA Networks have recently completed the «HyperAdapt» research project to explore the impact of an intensive use of SDN in the scalability, adaptability and management of the Internet for industrial purposes. To achieve this ambitious goal the work has advanced during two and a half years and along three lines of research.

Firstly, these experts on computer and communication networks have evaluated the potential impact of SDN concepts at a fundamental level, working with idealized models and facing the intrinsic dynamism of computer networks. They have been able to propose a collection of mechanisms and techniques to deal with this challenging dynamism, and have provided provable guarantees of their behaviour, that is, mathematical proofs of performance bounds.  

The second line of research chosen has explored problems in the interconnection between commercial Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and how these problems can be tackled with SDN. The researchers have proposed and evaluated mathematical models explaining how ISPs operate. They have also designed and evaluated techniques and algorithms that adapt to changing network conditions, aiming to improve performance along several dimensions, such as efficiency, economy, flexibility or simplicity of management.

Finally, in order to understand how to properly configure a wireless network a third line of research has focused on issues affecting wireless access networks. At the same time, the Madrid-based research team has substantiated the need for endowing mobile users with novel technologies such as device-to-device communication (D2D), visible light communication (VLC) or millimeter waves (mmWaves). Indeed, those technologies are key to handle extremely dynamic network behaviours, for example those networks formed by on-road vehicles.

As current network traffic demand grows unabated, this innovative take on the role of SDN for the future of the Internet has a high potential impact, as it proposes changes to key building blocks of the mobile Internet architecture.

HyperAdapt was funded from 2015 to 2017 by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad), under the State Program for Research, Development and Innovation Aimed at Society´s Challenges, Call 2014 – R+D+i Projects, within the 2013-2016 Nationwide Plan for Scientific and Technical Research and Innovation.