Introduction to Faucet
What is Faucet?
Faucet is a compact open source OpenFlow controller, which enables network operators to run their networks the same way they do server clusters. Faucet moves network control functions (like routing protocols, neighbor discovery, and switching algorithms) to vendor independent server-based software, versus traditional router or switch embedded firmware, where those functions are easy to manage, test, and extend with modern systems management best practices and tools. Faucet controls OpenFlow 1.3 hardware which delivers high forwarding performance.
You can read more about our approach to networking by reading our ACM Queue article Faucet: Deploying SDN in the Enterprise.
What is Gauge?
Faucet has two main OpenFlow controller components, Faucet itself, and Gauge. Faucet controls all forwarding and switch state, and exposes its internal state, e.g. learned hosts, via Prometheus (so that an open source NMS such as Grafana graph it).
Gauge also has an OpenFlow connection to the switch and monitors port and flow state (exporting it to Prometheus or InfluxDB, or even flat text log files). Gauge, however, does not ever modify the switch’s state, so that switch monitoring functions can be upgraded, restarted, without impacting forwarding.
Faucet is designed to be very small, simple (1000s of lines of code, versus millions in other systems), and keep relatively little state. Faucet does not have any implementation-specific or vendor driver code, which considerably reduces complexity. Faucet does not need connectivity to external databases for forwarding decisions. Faucet provides “hot/hot” high availability and scales through the provisioning of multiple Faucets with the same configuration - Faucet controllers are not inter-dependent.
Performance and scaling
As well as being compact, Faucet offloads all forwarding to the OpenFlow switch, including flooding if emulating a traditional switch. Faucet programs the switch pre-emptively, though will receive packet headers from the switch if, for example, a host moves ports so that the switch’s OpenFlow FIB can be updated (again, if traditional switching is being emulated). In production, Faucet controllers have been observed to go many seconds without needing to process a packet from a switch. In cold start scenarios, Faucet has been observed to completely program a switch and learn connected hosts within a few seconds.
Faucet uses a multi-table packet processing pipeline as shown in Faucet Openflow Switch Pipeline. Using multiple flow tables over a single table allows Faucet to implement more complicated flow-based logic while maintaining a smaller number of total flows. Using dedicated flow tables with a narrow number of match fields, or limiting a table to exact match only, such as the IPv4 or IPv6 FIB tables allows us to achieve greater scalability over the number of flow entries we can install on a datapath.
A large network with many devices would run many Faucets, which can be spread over as many (or as few) machines as required. This approach scales well because each Faucet uses relatively few server resources and Faucet controllers do not have to be centralized - they can deploy as discrete switching or routing functional units, incrementally replacing (for example) non-SDN switches or routers.
An operator might have a controller for an entire rack, or just a few switches, which also reduces control plane complexity and latency by keeping control functions simple and local.
Faucet follows open source software engineering best practices, including unit and systems testing (python unittest based), as well static analysis (pytype, pylint, and codecov) and fuzzing (python-afl). Faucet’s systems tests test all Faucet features, from switching algorithms to routing, on virtual topologies. However, Faucet’s systems tests can also be configured to run the same feature tests on real OpenFlow hardware. Faucet developers also host regular PlugFest events specifically to keep switch implementations broadly synchronized in capabilities and compatibility.
We use maintain a number of mailing lists for communicating with users and developers:
We also have the #faucet IRC channel on libera.
A few tutorial videos are available on our YouTube channel.
If you find bugs, or if have feature requests, please create an issue on our bug tracker.