A collaboration between the University of South Carolina, the Great Plains Network (GPN), and EPOC (a joint effort between Indiana University and ESnet) recently sponsored a two-day workshop on programmable data plane switches, with specific emphasis on Programming Protocol-Independent Packet Processors (P4).
Data plane programmability has attracted significant attention from the research community and industry due to its ability to enable programmers to run customized packet processing functions in the data plane, but so far there has been limited training available on P4.
P4 is a domain-specific language for network devices, specifying how data plane devices (switches, NICs, routers, filters, etc.) process packets. Using P4, application developers and network engineers can implement specific behavior in the network, enabling changes to be made in minutes instead of years.
“With FABRIC coming online and GPN as a host of one of the nodes, this P4 Workshop was a very welcome educational opportunity for our community” said James Deaton, the executive director of the Great Plains Network, one of the sponsors for the workshop.
More than 200 people attended the February event, which was presented via the University of South Carolina’s cybertraining system and offered free of charge. ESnet’s Jason Zurawski was among the organizers. Sessions covered the fundamentals of P4 programmable switches, FABRIC’s national cyberinfrastructure, use of P4 switches on campus networks. There were also hands-on sessions covering P4 building blocks, parser implementation in the data plane, populating match-action tables at runtime, and others.