Rapid and Scalable ISP Service Delivery through a Programmable MiddleBox

By: 
K. Khan, Z. Ahmed, S. Ahmed, A. Syed, S. Khayam
Appears in: 
CCR July 2014

With only access billing no longer ensuring profits, an ISP's growth now relies on rolling out new and differentiated services. However, ISPs currently do not have a well-defined architecture for rapid, cost-effective, and scalable dissemination of new services. We present iSDF, a new SDN-enabled framework that can meet an ISP's service delivery constraints concerning cost, scalability, deployment flexibility, and operational ease. We show that meeting these constraints necessitates an SDN philosophy for a centralized management plane, a decoupled (from data) control plane, and a programmable data plane at customer premises. We present an ISP service delivery framework (iSDF) that provides ISPs a domain-specific API for network function virtualization by leveraging a programmable middlebox built from commodity home-routers. It also includes an application server to disseminate, configure, and update ISP services. We develop and report results for three diverse ISP applications that demonstrate the practicality and flexibility of iSDF, namely distributed VPN (control plane decisions), pay-per-site (rapid deployment), and BitTorrent blocking (data plane processing).

Public Review By: 
Katerina Argyraki

Software Defined Networking (SDN) is driving our community toward more flexible and manageable network architectures; this paper explores the design of such an architecture for an Internet Service Provider (ISP). The goal is to enable the ISP to rapidly deploy new customer services without disrupting network operation. The paper argues that the SDN model typically applied to enterprise or datacenter networks (where custom traffic processing happens at a centralized controller) would not serve this goal well. Instead, it proposes that the ISP deploys programmable middleboxes in customer premises; the middlebox dataplane exports a Bro-like application programming interface (API); new customer services take the form of Bro-like scripts that are periodically downloaded to the middleboxes from a centralized ISP location. The authors conclude the paper with a promising proof-of-concept deployment. The reviewers appreciated the concrete proposal that relies on readily available components, as well as the informal testimonies of ISP operators regarding the need for rapid service deployment and the limitations of the centralized-controller model. As a side-note, the paper also provides food for thought regarding ISP interest in SDN and rapid service deployment: 3 out of the 10 example applications used to illustrate the value of the proposal are P2P blocking, content censorship, and P2P traffic shaping.