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ONF, in Collaboration with Microsoft, Google and Intel, Brings SDN to SONiC™

PINS Project Extends Leading Open Source Network OS with P4 Programmability

MENLO PARK, Calif. FEB 17, 2022 - The Open Networking Foundation (ONF) today announced the upstream contribution of its collaboratively developed P4 Integrated Network Stack (PINS) into Software for Open Networking in the Cloud (SONiC), the leading open source network operating system for data centers. PINS extends SONiC with an Software-Defined Networking (SDN) interface and P4 programmable pipeline, providing network developers with a standardized and fully documented interface that simplifies and accelerates network programming, validation, testing, and analysis.

SONiC, a switch operating system for data center scenarios, uses embedded control plane protocols (e.g. BGP and OSPF) to build disaggregated networking fabrics. SDN, on the other hand, espouses building centrally controlled fabrics with a common controller that has end-to-end visibility of the entire topology. Until now, operators have had to choose one over the other, either a disaggregated solution or an SDN architecture. Integrating PINS into SONiC now makes it possible to have the best of both worlds.

The ONF, along with community leads Microsoft, Google and Intel, created PINS to marry SDN intelligence into SONiC.  The broader community, including Alibaba, Arista, Broadcom, Cisco, Innovium, and NVIDIA are working with ONF to incubate the project and extend PINS with additional features and capabilities. 

PINS Highlights:

  • Supports Hybrid Control Planes: PINS gives network operators a choice of network control planes, and which parts run locally or remotely, and even allows the control planes to be mixed with certain functions running locally (like traditional routing protocols such as BGP) and other control operations (like traffic engineering) being centrally orchestrated.
  • Opt-In Path Towards SDN: P4Runtime and SONiC have been combined such that SONiC will continue to work the way it does today, while enabling users to migrate towards an SDN solution without initially requiring an SDN controller. Using P4Runtime, users can control essential networking features, including L3 routing, Weighted-Cost Multipath (WCMP) routing, and ACLs (with more capabilities planned for future releases).
  • Familiar Interfaces: PINS uses P4 to model the SAI pipeline used by SONiC to model the data plane pipeline. PINS also provides a P4Runtime interface that exposes this pipeline to local and remote control planes over a fast and secure gRPC connection.

The source code for the first set of PINS features has already been merged to the upstream SONiC repositories and is part of the 202111 release; this includes a new P4Runtime interface and P4 control of the routing, WCMP, and ACL tables. PINS also includes extensive design documents available on Github, open and accessible to anyone.

“SONiC OS has gained rapid momentum in the data center and cloud market within just five years as a standard and widely deployed open source network operating system. Today, ONF is excited to have helped bring PINS to SONiC, offering the option to leverage SDN capabilities and P4 programmability within networks based on traditional distributed control planes like BGP.  ONF has been an unabashed champion for SDN, and we are thrilled that PINS now makes SDN accessible to the full community of operators leveraging SONiC.”
Guru Parulkar, Executive Director, Open Networking Foundation

“The SONiC community is thrilled to work with PINS to give network architects maximum freedom in designing their networks. Making P4 a first-class citizen on SONiC switches enables architects to model new data-planes. Network operators have the choice of over 100 switches that run SONiC and the flexibility to write code that runs on the switches or on controllers that communicate with the network device via PINS.”
Dave Maltz, Technical Fellow and Corporate VP, Azure Networking, Microsoft

“Google has been using SDN in our data centers and WAN for over a decade, and we’re very excited to have helped bring SDN capabilities to SONiC. We’ve seen the benefits that centralized control can bring for tasks like traffic engineering, hitless route sequencing, and fault detection. We want a broader set of constituents to be able to realize similar benefits on a common switch platform.”
Mythil Raman, Director, Google Cloud Platform

“Intel has collaborated with data center operators to drive production deployments of both SONiC and SDN with our proven, fully P4-programmable networking silicon, such as Intel Tofino Intelligent Fabric Processors and Intel IPUs. Combining the best of SONiC with the best of P4 programmability allows network operators to innovate without disruption to their existing networks.”
Ed Doe, VP and GM, Switch & Fabric Group, Intel

To learn more, join the PINS community at sonic-pins-subgroup.  You can also review the PINS tutorial to learn the basics or view a video which highlights the PINS architecture, design and features presented by Google, Intel and ONF.


About the Open Networking Foundation:
The Open Networking Foundation (ONF) is an operator-led consortium spearheading disruptive network transformation. Now the recognized leader for open source solutions for operators, the ONF first launched in 2011 as the standard bearer for Software Defined Networking (SDN). Led by its operator partners AT&T, China Unicom, Deutsche Telekom, Google, NTT Group and Türk Telekom, the ONF is driving vast transformation across the operator space. For further information visit https://onfstaging1.opennetworking.org