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Unraveling the Complexity of Network Management

Theophilus Benson, Aditya Akella, and David A. Maltz


Operator interviews and anecdotal evidence suggest that an operator’s ability to manage a network decreases as the network becomes more complex. However, there is currently no way to systematically quantify how complex a network’s design is nor how complexity may impact network management activities. In this paper, we develop a suite of complexity models that describe the routing design and configuration of a network in a succinct fashion, abstracting away details of the underlying configuration languages. Our models, and the complexity metrics arising from them, capture the difficulty of configuring control and data plane behaviors on routers. They also measure the inherent complexity of the reachability constraints that a network implements via its routing design. Our models simplify network design and management by facilitating comparison between alternative designs for a network. We tested our models on seven networks, including four university networks and three enterprise networks. We validated the results through interviews with the operators of five of the networks, and we show that the metrics are predictive of the issues operators face when reconfiguring their networks.


Publication typeInproceedings
Published inNetwork Systems Design and Implementation (NSDI)
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