Improving SDN Scalability with Protocol-Oblivious Source Routing: A System-Level Study

Shengru Li, Kai Han, Nirwan Ansari, Qinkun Bao, Daoyun Hu, Junjie Liu, Shui Yu, Zuqing Zhu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Software-defined networking (SDN) has been considered as a break-through technology for the next-generation Internet. It enables fine-grained flow control that can make networks more flexible and programmable. However, this might lead to scalability issues due to the possible flow state explosion in SDN switches. SDN-based source routing can reduce the volume of flow-tables significantly by encoding the path information into packet headers. In this paper, we leverage the protocol-oblivious forwarding instruction set to design protocol-oblivious source routing (POSR), which is a protocol-independent, bandwidth-efficient, and flow-table-saving packet forwarding technique. We lay out the packet format for POSR, come up with the packet processing pipelines for realizing unicast, multicast, and link failure recovery, and implement POSR in a protocol-oblivious forwarding-enabled SDN network system. Experiments are then performed in a network testbed, which consists of 14 stand-alone SDN switches, to validate the advantages of POSR. Specifically, we compare POSR with several OpenFlow-based benchmarks for unicast, multicast, and link failure recovery, and confirm that POSR can reduce flow-table utilization effectively, shorten path setup latency and expedite link failure recovery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)275-288
Number of pages14
JournalIEEE Transactions on Network and Service Management
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


  • Software-defined networking (SDN)
  • protocol-oblivious forwarding (POF)
  • source routing


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