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Effective Network Automation in the Data Plane

To be effective, network automation in the data plane requires two things from the data plane elements being automated:

1) a way for the element being automated to provide information about its state, its connections linking it to other network elements, and its perceptions of the information it is handling, and

2) a way for network control and apps to change the behavior of the element being automated, and for these changes to be effected in real time.

Conventional fixed pipeline fabrics may be able to provide the first part, telemetry, but they are woefully ill-equipped to handle the second. This is part of what SDN was created to fix,  but its full expression was limited to more fully programmable Network Processors, which limited viable commercial use cases to network edge applications where the expense was justified.

With the arrival of the  Barefoot Tofino, we finally have a networking substrate that is price competitive with fixed-pipeline ASICs, but that enables the genuine programmability and flexibility needed for network automation that goes beyond just resetting switch parameters and actually changing how they handle the data flowing through them.

At the SDN&NFV World Congress in October, NoviFlow demonstrated live a fully responsive SDN-based Threat Intelligence Gateway solution running via our NoviWare NOS on the Barefoot Tofino at a full 6.5 Tbps!

The Tofino also provides significantly enhanced telemetry, which NoviFlow’s NoviWare exposes via open standard OpenFlow, gRPC, SNMP, and CLI, and will soon offer the same via P4-runtime.

Tofino-based white box switches running NoviWare provide unprecedented scope for both of the requirements for network automation of the data plane described above. They also finally provide SDN controllers and applications a data plane fabric that can truly implement full programmability without compromising on either bandwidth or cost!