Parallel simulation and virtual-machine-based emulation of software-defined networks

Dong Jin, David M. Nicol

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The emerging software-defined networking (SDN) technology decouples the control plane from the data plane in a computer network with open and standardized interfaces, and hence opens up the network designers' options and ability to innovate. The wide adoption of SDN in industry has motivated the development of large-scale, high-fidelity testbeds for evaluation of systems that incorporate SDN. In this article, we develop a framework to support OpenFlow-based SDN simulation and distributed emulation, by leveraging our prior work on a hybrid network testbed with a parallel network simulator and a virtual-machine-based emulation system. We show how to exploit typical SDN controller behaviors to handle performance issues caused by the centralized controller in parallel discrete-event simulation. In particular, we develop an asynchronous synchronization algorithm for passive SDN controllers and design a two-level architecture for active SDN controllers. We evaluate the system performance, showing good scalability. Finally, we present a case study, using the testbed, to evaluate network verification applications in an SDN-based data center network.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number8
JournalACM Transactions on Modeling and Computer Simulation
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2015


  • Discrete event
  • Distributed
  • Parallel
  • Software-defined networking
  • Virtual line

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Computer Science Applications

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