Software-defined networking (SDN) has fundamentally changed the way in which we organize, operate, and design computer networks. The ability to control the network in software gives rise to many new opportunities, but also many new challenges. The networking research community, in both academia and in industry, has in the last few years spent significant effort in exploring the SDN design space, resulting in an exciting array of ideas and techniques. One of the most successful efforts has been to combine SDN with ideas from formal methods and programming languages, which has resulted in techniques that allow for formal guarantees while also being practical and impactful.
But in order to fully utilize the power afforded by SDN, it is necessary to leverage ideas from algorithms as well as from formal methods. There is a long and successful history of interaction between the networking and the algorithms communities; for example, traditional networking has long relied on distributed algorithms for routing, traffic engineering, and other management tasks. But SDN is a new setting, with new algorithmic challenges. Currently, many algorithmic problems in SDN have been solved using less-than-optimal heuristics, and an injection of modern techniques from the algorithms community will help fully harness the power of SDN. For example, issues of SDN optimization such as designing the right abstractions, finding scalable algorithms, optimizing rule placement, and decompositions for hierarchical SDNs could benefit from the rigorous approaches and analytical techniques of the algorithms community. Similarly, applying popular algorithmic paradigms such as streaming and sketching to SDN measurement and monitoring has the potential to allow dramatic gains in performance with a provably small cost.
The main goal of this workshop is to bring together researchers working at the intersection of the theory and practice of networking, with a special focus on the applicability of these ideas to SDN, in the hope of jumpstarting collaborations between theoreticians and networking researchers in this area. The workshop will bring together a diverse community of industrial and academic researchers that span these areas and also provide opportunities for students and postdocs to engage leading researchers in the theory and practice of SDN. This will provide not only an opportunity for the networking community to get new ideas and approaches, but will also provide a tremendous opportunity for the theoretical community, both as a source of new algorithmic problems and as a way to have a direct impact. This is to some extent in contrast to the traditional networking paradigm, where the algorithmic problems often do not have a path to deployment as they are constrained by existing protocols. Thus, part of the goal of the workshop is to educate the theoretical community on the challenges and opportunities of SDN. As part of this, one outcome of the workshop will be a document containing the views of the workshop attendees on the most important algorithmic problems involving SDN. This will serve as a central point of reference for future work in algorithms for SDN, and will hopefully spur further research in the way that lists of open problems have led to further research in other parts of algorithms.