CONMan: A Step Towards Network Manageability

Hitesh Ballani and Paul Francis
Appears in: 
CCR October 2007

Networks are hard to manage and in spite of all the so called holistic management packages, things are getting worse. We argue that the difficulty of network management can partly be attributed to a fundamental flaw in the existing architecture: protocols expose all their internal details and hence, the complexity of the ever-evolving data plane encumbers the management plane. Guided by this observation, in this paper we explore an alternative approach and propose Complexity Oblivious Network Management (CONMan), a network architecture in which the management interface of data-plane protocols includes minimal protocol-specific information. This restricts the operational complexity of protocols to their implementation and allows the management plane to achieve high level policies in a structured fashion. We built the CONMan interface of a few protocols and a management tool that can achieve high-level configuration goals based on this interface. Our preliminary experience with applying this tool to real world VPN configuration indicates the architecture’s potential to alleviate the difficulty of configuration management.