Open Network Featured Article

Barefoot, Google Cloud Promote P4 Runtime

October 06, 2017

P4 is a new open source programming language for networking. And P4 Runtime is an API that allows the control plane and the forwarding plane to communicate.

In a Network World article earlier this year, Senior Editor Brandon Butler explained why P4 so important to software-defined networking. (It’s because it makes the whole stack, down to the silicon, programmable.)

Barefoot Networks, which offers a P4 chip called Tofino, is among the companies leading the P4 movement. Other P4 champions include Alibaba Group, AT&T, Broadcom, Brocade, Cisco (News - Alert), Comcast, Dell, Fox, Goldman Sachs, Google, HPE, Huawei, Intel, Juniper, Marvell, Mellanox, Netronome, Plumgrid, and VMware.

Representatives from Cornell, Princeton, and University of Virginia are also involved. So is Nick McKeown, who’s chief scientist and co-founder at Barefoot Networks, a Stanford University professor, and co-founder of Nicira, which VMware bought a few years ago.

We’re talking about this now because Barefoot Networks recently announced it has collaborated with Google (News - Alert) Cloud to create an open source project under called P4 Runtime. That offers the ability to control such networking devices as fixed-function ASICs, FPGAs, NPUs, programmable ASICs, and software switches.

And the two have worked with the Open Networking Foundation to integrate P4 Runtime with the ONOS controller.

"AT&T (News - Alert) applauds efforts that disaggregate hardware from software using open, standard and extensible APIs," said AT&T CTO and AT&T Labs President Andre Fuetsch. "We're excited to see P4 Runtime gaining traction. When integrated with the open and globally-adopted ONAP platform, it will pay huge dividends to network operators."

Jochen Appel, vice president of access network engineering and cost engineering at Deutsche Telekom (News - Alert), commented” "As networks scale to handle the onslaught of new services and insatiable need for bandwidth, having open and extensible hardware abstractions has become a critical business need. We are very excited about P4 Runtime, since it gives us the freedom to deploy best-in-class network switching solutions thereby shortening time to market for new network services and delivering increased value to our customers."

Edited by Mandi Nowitz