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Interview with Ben Pfaff on the Open Networking Summit and More

The Open Networking Summit took place on April 3-6 – where Enterprise, Cloud and Service Providers gathered in Santa Clara, California to share insights, highlight innovation and discuss the future of open source networking.

One of the attendees at the Open Networking Summit was Ben Pfaff, Principal Engineer at VMware. Ben is a lead developer of the Open vSwitch project and led the development effort of the OpenFlow reference implementation. We caught up with Ben after the show to hear his thoughts on the show.

This blog represents part 1 of our interview with Ben. In part 2, you’ll hear more about one of his main projects, Open vSwitch, of which is he is a lead developer.

Hey Ben, thanks for taking the time to speak with us today. How was Open Networking Summit?


Ben: So, Open Networking Summit (ONS) actually consists of two events – there might be more, but I was involved with two. ONS is the big event itself. There is also the Symposium on SDN Research (SOSR). This is an academic conference that accepts papers. I was on the program committee for that and deeply involved in the research papers and selecting a program there. On Monday morning, I was the session chair for the first session there.

There were some pretty fantastic papers at the conference. My favorite one – there was a system called “NEAt: Network Error Auto-Correct”. The idea here is that the system keeps track of what’s going on with your network and notices problems and automatically corrects them. It was designed for an SDN setup where you have a controller that is responding to changes in the network and telling systems what to do.

Any particularly memorable papers from the Symposium on SDN Research?

We saw a paper on bug finding, called BigBug. It was a way to collect all of the bugs one system had found–which often amounted to thousands–and classify them, so it was easy for programmers to track them down.

Did you see more papers submitted this year at SOSR?  

Yeah, we did. I think the number of paper submissions was increasing based on last year’s number – the deadline this year was later compared to last.

You had a presentation at ONS – Can you provide a little bit of background as to what you covered?

Justin Pettit (also a lead developer on Open vSwitch) and I do these talks often. This time, we wanted to do it more interactive. We had 50 minutes, but we only used a half hour to take questions – and we got a lot of them. A few like“How can I use this?” or “Is this supported?” but also some deeper questions about specific features or our future vision for different aspects of the system.

The slides from our Open Networking Summit talk will be available here.

Anything in particular you found exciting at Open Networking Summit?

One thing – I hadn’t quite realized in the moment, since this is my first time attending in full – ONS is just swarming with people in the industry, both on the management side and technical side. You run into all kinds of people in the industry. The other thing I noticed, and that the Linux Foundation is really emphasizing, is that every open source Linux Foundation project had a session there.

What do you see as the main value of attending something like ONS?

I think the biggest value of attending a conference like ONS is the people that are there – your fellow attendees. You can run into so many people. Half are doing startups with these crazy ideas that we’re able to learn from. There is the expo, and seeing what products that people are putting out. Usually, I’d say the keynotes provide a lot of vision, but this year they tended to be a little more retrospective.

Special thank you to Ben for taking the time to chat with us! You can follow Ben on Twitter at @Ben_Pfaff.


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