Google Cloud, Barefoot Networks create P4 Runtime open source project

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The P4 Runtime API offers the ability to control a diversity of networking devices including fixed-function ASICs, FPGAs, NPUs, software switches, and Programmable ASICs.

Google Cloud and Barefoot Networks have created an open source project under P4.org called P4 Runtime, an API for enabling communication between control plane and forwarding plane in a more flexible manner.  

Suitable for local or remote-control plane software, the P4 Runtime API is independent of the underlying forwarding plane type. It offers the ability to control a diversity of networking devices including fixed-function ASICs, FPGAs, NPUs, software switches, and Programmable ASICs.

Besides the P4 Runtime API, Barefoot Networks and Google Cloud worked with the Open Networking Foundation to integrate P4 Runtime with the ONOS controller.

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The combined framework is used to demonstrate ONOS controller deploying and managing Google's tor.p4 program on Barefoot Networks' 6.5Tbps and 3.2Tbps P4-Programmable Tofino Ethernet switches.

The advent of a P4-programmable forwarding plane means a control plane can evolve and change as fast as the programmable forwarding plane. This demonstration of ONOS with P4 Runtime fulfills that need by showcasing a network switch deployment model that is seamlessly upgradeable for installing new features and functionality.

Service providers like AT&T and Deutsche Telekom see value in the approach that Google and Barefoot have developed. AT&T, for one, enabled 34% of its network in 2016 with software, bringing the telco another step closer to reaching its goal to virtualize a large portion of its network with software by 2020. The service provider has set a large goal to virtualize 75% of its network with software by the year 2020.

"AT&T applauds efforts that disaggregate hardware from software using open, standard and extensible APIs," said Andre Fuetsch, president of AT&T Labs and CTO at AT&T, in a release. "We're excited to see P4 Runtime gaining traction. When integrated with the open and globally-adopted ONAP platform, it will pay huge dividends to network operators."

Likewise, Deutsche Telekom says this new effort will enable it to accelerate service activation.

"We are very excited about P4 Runtime, since it gives us the freedom to deploy best-in-class network switching solutions thereby shortening time to market for new network services and delivering increased value to our customers," said Jochen Appel, VP of access network engineering and cost engineering for Deutsche Telekom, in the release.