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Network Research Lab at U Illinois Adopts Open Switches

The Ocean Cluster for Experimental Architectures in Networks (OCEAN) laboratory at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has implemented open switches to support its research in software-defined networks (SDN), security, cloud computing, and low-latency networks.

According to information on the OCEAN site, the OCEAN network is made up of 176 server ports and 676 switch ports. It uses Pica8 P-3290 48 x 1 GbE open switches through TAM Networks, as well as NIAGARA 32066 NICs from Interface Masters and servers from Dell.

Open switches are hardware-independent switches that use software for networking. The OCEAN network uses the Pica8 open switches to design "new, networked systems from low-level physical wiring up to network protocols and applications, via an SDN-capable network bed," according to Pica8.

The Pica8 open switches run the PicOS open network operating system (OS), which "incorporates standards-based Layer 2/Layer3 protocols into existing networks," according to the company. The open switches also operate in Open vSwitch (OVS) mode to support OpenFlow 1.2, a communications protocol for accessing a network switch or router over a network. "OVS runs as a process within PicOS and provides the OpenFlow interface for external programmability as well as integration with CloudStack and OpenStack," according to the company.

“Networks in the cloud and across the Internet have become increasingly complex to architect and manage,” said Brighten Godfrey, assistant professor of computer science at the University of Illinois, in a prepared statement. “SDN is a powerful way to cut through that complexity, allowing our lab to build solutions ranging from real-time verification of network security to novel data center network architectures that improve flexibility and efficiency.”

Further information about Pica8 open switches can be found at

About the Author

Leila Meyer is a technology writer based in British Columbia. She can be reached at [email protected].

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