Data networks have enabled extraordinary growth in capabilities such as email, the web, and social media; and today form the technical basis for our information-centric economy. However, current network architectures and processes for technical evolution cannot support the complexity and pace innovation in emerging applications such as Virtualized / Cloud Computing, Internet of Things, ubiquitous Mobile Computing and Big Data Analytics. Today’s industry norm of deploying special purpose, fixed-function hardware appliances (e.g., routers, switches, firewalls, load balancers) that implement standardized protocols no longer scales with the required pace of innovation for new services, nor the economics of modern virtualized computing. In today’s networking industry, these barriers to innovation result in lead times of years to design and develop new network services and require tremendous capital and operational expenses to deploy and operate new network functions.
In response, the industry has developed new initiatives in Network Function Virtualization (NFV) and Software Defined Networking (SDN). These are radical departures from today’s industry norms, in that they abstract the implementation of new network functions and decouple them from specific hardware platforms and topological constraints (i.e., the location in a network where functions/services must be deployed). In essence, NFV/SDN make the network itself “programmable,” offering the promise of rapid innovation of network services customized and tightly integrated with specific application domains. NFV/SDN will enable the networking industry to follow the same virtualization model that cloud computing has successfully demonstrated with both cost savings and business growth measured in the billions of dollars. The results of NFV/SDN research and development are creating fundamentally new measurement challenges in network behavior, software quality, and security properties of dynamically composed, programmable networks. Given the critical position of basic network control systems, the need to accurately measure and thoroughly test the safety, robustness, security, and performance of software defined networks will be paramount in ensuring the success of these technologies use in future mission/business-critical networks.