A clean slate 4D approach to network control and management

Albert Greenberg, Gisli Hjalmtysson, David A. Maltz, Andy Myers, Jennifer L. Rexford, Geoffrey Xie, Hong Yan, Jibin Zhan, Hui Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

492 Scopus citations


Today's data networks are surprisingly fragile and difficult to manage. We argue that the root of these problems lies in the complexity of the control and management planes - the software and protocols coordinating network elements - and particularly the way the decision logic and the distributed-systems issues are inexorably intertwined. We advocate a complete refactoring of the functionality and propose three key principles - network-level objectives, network-wide views, and direct control - that we believe should underlie a new architecture. Following these principles, we identify an extreme design point that we call "4D," after the architecture's four planes: decision, dissemination, discovery, and data. The 4D architecture completely separates an AS's decision logic from pro-tocols that govern the interaction among network elements. The AS-level objectives are specified in the decision plane, and en-forced through direct configuration of the state that drives how the data plane forwards packets. In the 4D architecture, the routers and switches simply forward packets at the behest of the decision plane, and collect measurement data to aid the decision plane in controlling the network. Although 4D would involve substantial changes to today's control and management planes, the format of data packets does not need to change; this eases the deployment path for the 4D architecture, while still enabling substantial innovation in network control and management. We hope that exploring an extreme design point will help focus the attention of the research and industrial communities on this crucially important and intellectually challenging area.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)41-54
Number of pages14
JournalComputer Communication Review
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Software
  • Computer Networks and Communications


  • Control
  • Network management
  • Robustness


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