Frenetic: A network programming language

Nate Foster, Rob Harrison, Michael Joseph Freedman, Christopher Monsanto, Jennifer L. Rexford, Alec Story, David P. Walker

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

207 Scopus citations


Modern networks provide a variety of interrelated services including routing, traffic monitoring, load balancing, and access control. Unfortunately, the languages used to program today's networks lack modern features-they are usually defined at the low level of abstraction supplied by the underlying hardware and they fail to provide even rudimentary support for modular programming. As a result, network programs tend to be complicated, error-prone, and difficult to maintain. This paper presents Frenetic, a high-level language for programming distributed collections of network switches. Frenetic provides a declarative query language for classifying and aggregating network traffic as well as a functional reactive combinator library for describing high-level packet-forwarding policies. Unlike prior work in this domain, these constructs are-by design-fully compositional, which facilitates modular reasoning and enables code reuse. This important property is enabled by Frenetic's novel runtime system which manages all of the details related to installing, uninstalling, and querying low-level packet-processing rules on physical switches. Overall, this paper makes three main contributions: (1) We analyze the state-of-the art in languages for programming networks and identify the key limitations; (2) We present a language design that addresses these limitations, using a series of examples to motivate and validate our choices; (3)We describe an implementation of the language and evaluate its performance on several benchmarks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationICFP'11 - Proceedings of the 2011 ACM SIGPLAN International Conference on Functional Programming
Number of pages13
StatePublished - 2011
Event16th ACM SIGPLAN International Conference on Functional Programming, ICFP'11 - Tokyo, Japan
Duration: Sep 19 2011Sep 21 2011

Publication series

NameProceedings of the ACM SIGPLAN International Conference on Functional Programming, ICFP


Other16th ACM SIGPLAN International Conference on Functional Programming, ICFP'11

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Software


  • Domain-specific languages
  • Functional reactive programming
  • Network programming languages
  • OpenFlow


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