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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