Barefoot Networks and Google Cloud focus on P4 Runtime


Since P4 network programming language is steadily gaining track, it does not come as a surprise that Barefoot Networks and Google Cloud have collaborated to create an open source runtime application programming interface (API), also known as the P4 Runtime.

The P4 Runtime is described as a “silicon-independent and protocol-independent API for control plane – forwarding plane communication”.

The P4 Runtime API will essentially enable communication between control and forwarding plane in an extensible and scalable manner. It is suitable for both local and/or remote control plane software and independent of the underlying forwarding plane. The P4 Runtime API provides the ability to control a wide variety of networking devices including fixed-function and programmable ASICs, NPUs, FPGAs, software switches and other similar devices.

In order to further expand the collaboration, Barefoot Networks and Google Cloud have teamed up with the Open Networking Foundation (ONF) to integrated P4 Runtime with the Open Network Operating System (ONOS) controller, an open source SDN network operating system designed for next-generation SDN/NFV solutions. The ONOS controller has been used at the SDN NFV World Congress 2017, held from October 9th to October 13th at The Hague, Netherlands, to deploy and manage Google’s tor.p4 program on Barefoot Network’s 6.5Tb/s and 3.2Tb/s P4-Programmable Tofino Ethernet switches.

According to Nick McKeown, co-founder and chief scientist at Barefoot Networks: “Big picture networking was defined by hardware. Now we lifting the features and protocol up out of hardware and putting them into software. As soon as you put it in software you hand it to an army of developers to create new features and capabilities.”

While it has been mostly supported by Barefoot Networks and Google Cloud, P4 Runtime has gained some attention from big players including AT&T and Deutsche Telekom.

“AT&T applauds efforts that disaggregate hardware from software using open, standard and extensible APIs,” said Andre Fuetsch, President AT&T Labs and Chief Technology Officer at AT&T. “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.”

“As networks scale to handle the onslaught of new services and insatiable need for bandwidth, having open and extensible hardware abstractions has become a critical business need,” said Jochen Appel, VP Access Network Engineering & Cost Engineering at Deutsche Telekom. “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.”

Another big player raising its voice in support of the P4 Runtime is Cavium, one of the early members of the and a pioneer in programmable switching solutions. Erich Hayes, VP/GM of the Switch Platform Group at Cavium noted that with the growing momentum of programmability in the networking industry as well as the production availability of its Xpliant multi-terabit programmable switching solutions, the company has extended support for the P4 Runtime in order to enable developers to design and deploy networks that benefit from “open, extensible, application-centric SDN solutions.”


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Slobodan Simic is foremost an IT enthusiast who discovered his knack for writing, which lead to becoming both an IT journalist and later an Editor for a number of publications. He has been covering anything from the consumer- and professional-oriented hardware to software markets and networks. With a focus on chasing down leads, making sure that fresh content is ready for publishing, as well as keeping up with the evergrowing and evolving IT world, writing has become more of his passion rather than just a job.