Web-Based User Interface for the Floodlight SDN Controller

Web-Based User Interface for the Floodlight SDN Controller
Int. J. Advanced Networking and Applications
Volume: 08 Issue: 05 Pages: 3175-3180 (2017) ISSN: 0975-0290
Web-Based User Interface for the Floodlight SDN
Hakan Akcay
Department of Computer Engineering, Istanbul University, Istanbul
Email: [email protected]
Derya Yiltas-Kaplan
Department of Computer Engineering, Istanbul University, Istanbul
Email : [email protected]
----------------------------------------------------------------------ABSTRACT----------------------------------------------------------Software Defined Networking (SDN) was born as a solution for next-generation network design. Due to its flexible
architecture, SDN promises to make network devices simpler while giving better centralized control ability over
network and improving parameters such as flexibility, resilience, reliability, and security. In this paper, we briefly
introduce the SDN architecture and the Floodlight Controller that is one of the popular SDN controllers. We build
a web-based user interface for the Floodlight Controller by using REST API. This application is the first program
in the Floodlight SDN Controller literature to view the controller upon several properties such as device
connections and flow tables.
Keywords – Floodlight Controller, OpenFlow, Programmable Networks, SDN Web, Software-Defined Network.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Date of Submission: March 14, 2017
Date of Acceptance: March 22, 2017
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ --------------------------Therefore, operating the devices on the upper layers is
more complicated than that on lower layers [3]. Switches
he increase in the number of devices connected to the are layer 2 elements and also the simplest devices in
Internet, makes it very difficult to control the network. present networks. Routers are more complex, because they
Problems such as configuration errors, lack of capacity of manage network traffic based on the forwarding decisions
routing tables, security leaks are more common than ever with using the routing tables which are constructed
before. Controlling the network by an administrator has manually.
become highly complex because of the inflexible behavior
According to the traditional network approach, most of
of the network components from switches and routers to
firewalls, network address translators, load balancers, and the network functionalities are implemented in a dedicated
manner such as configuration of routers and switches,
intrusion detection systems.
delivery of network applications using a hardware such as
In this context, Software Defined Networking (SDN) is ASIC (Application Specific Integrated Circuit) [4]. Data
a new way to design and manage networks [1]. SDN is a flow is managed by routers and switches by using certain
network programming framework that allows developers protocols.
We represent a traditional network architecture in Fig.1
to program the network services with making it more
intelligence and enhancing the performance of the network by including the data, control, and management planes
[1]. SDN is an agile, simple to implement and not costly together.
architecture that decouples the data level from the control
level [2].
SDN is being contributed by many prominent vendors
like Cisco, Google, HP, Big Switch Networks, etc. [1].
The rest of this paper organized as follows: Section 2
introduces traditional networks. Section 3 describes SDN
in more detail. Section 4 is about Floodlight Controller
and finally Section 5 presents the conclusions.
In the traditional networks, all network elements are
defined by OSI (Open Systems Interconnection) model.
This model has 7 layers that can have multiple protocols
individually [3]. Each layer operates depending on its own
lower layer and serves the upper layer. There are simple
network devices on the lower layers of the OSI model
while more complicated devices work on the upper layers.
Fig. 1. Traditional network management
Int. J. Advanced Networking and Applications
Volume: 08 Issue: 05 Pages: 3175-3180 (2017) ISSN: 0975-0290
The limitations of the traditional networks are
becoming more important. In addition, they are not agile,
slow to implement and takes too long to market [2].
In the traditional network approach, network
administrators typically configure individual network
devices by using the vendor based configuration
interfaces. Network operators are responsible for
configuring policies and implement many complex
protocols to a wide range of network applications [5].
They have to apply these high-level policies into low-level
configuration commands manually to configure network
elements. They have very limited tools to perform these
complex tasks [5].
However, internet applications and services become
more complex and difficult to control day by day [5]. The
idea of “Programmable Networks” emerged to facilitate
network evolution. In particular, SDN is a new network
design that promises to simplify network management and
enable network innovation and evolution [5].
SDN is changing the way of design and management of
the networks. SDN is a result of long work to make
computer networks more programmable and flexible [6].
SDN has two important characteristics. First, SDN
separates the control plane and the data plane of the
network elements. Second, SDN centralizes the control
plane with a single software called SDN Controller that
manages the entire network and its components, such as
OpenFlow switches, routers, and other middleboxes, via
Application Programming Interfaces (API) [6]. An SDN
Controller uses a protocol called OpenFlow to control
switches and routers from the controller software. We
represent a simplified view of the SDN architecture in Fig.
Fig. 2. Simplified view of the SDN architecture.
With the separation of control and data planes, network
components return to the simple forwarding devices and
the control of these elements is implemented in the
logically centralized controller software [7]. The SDN
Controller directly controls the forwarding elements via
well-defined APIs. The mostly used one of these APIs is
OpenFlow. An OpenFlow switch has one or more flow
table inside and each table consists of some flow rules.
Each rule of table matches a subset of the traffic actions
such as dropping, forwarding, and modifying. The
controller software has the ability of inserting, modifying,
and deleting the rules of a flow table of switch. Therefore,
an OpenFlow switch can be instructed by a controller and
behaves like a router, firewall or performs other roles like
load balancer [7].
SDN works on five fundamental traits: plane separation, a
simplified network device, centralized control, network
automation, and openness [8].
SDN Controllers fulfill the task of centralized control.
The Controller is the main component of the network
operation system (NOS) and the SDN networks.
Controllers take the responsibility of establishing every
flow in the network by modifying flow entries on the
network devices [9]. Controllers must perform
management of the network state and also the distribution
of this state. A controller may involve a database to store
information about network elements and the related
softwares. A Controller software must provide a modern,
commonly RESTful (Representational state transfer) API
to an external application [10]. The communication
between a controller and all network devices must be
provided via a secure TCP control session. Additionally, a
Int. J. Advanced Networking and Applications
Volume: 08 Issue: 05 Pages: 3175-3180 (2017) ISSN: 0975-0290
device and topology discovery mechanism and a service
management system must be provided.
Floodlight is Java-based, open source and one of the most
popular SDN controllers supporting physical and virtual
OpenFlow compatible switches. It has a number of
packages denoted by org.openlow [8]. Floodlight is based
on Bacon controller from Standford University [10].
The Floodlight architecture is modular with including
device management module, topology module, learning
switch, load balancer, Web Graphical User Interface (Web
GUI) for web access, counter module for statistics.
Floodlight controller presents a RESTful API allowing
some applications to learn and get the state of the
controller and network [10]. It uses LLDP protocol to
discover network topology. Floodlight Provider module
called as core module, handles I/O from network devices
and turns incoming OpenFlow messages into Floodlight
Floodlight controller uses event listeners for receive
notifications. Most important listeners are: SwitchListener,
DeviceListener, MessageListener.
SwitchListener is used to receive notifications
whenever a switch is connected or disconnected to the
internet or has a change in its port status. DeviceListener is
notified whenever a device (generally an end-user node)
has been added, removed, moved or has changed its IP
address or VLAN address [8].
MessageListener gets notifications whenever a packet
has been received by the controller. When a packet is
received, the application processes the packet and takes
the appropriate action [8].
Fig. 3. Floodlight controller structure [11]
In the early days of commercial Internet, setting
configuration parameters of devices has been possible only
using methods such as CLI, TL1, NETCONF, SNMP, TR069 [10]. These mechanisms are available now and have
been rarely used with SDN. But they are slow and difficult
to maintain [10]. Furthermore, they are not suitable for
today’s data centers because that the data centers are
required dynamic, frequent, and automated management
In the last few years, newer methods have been
developed to make remote configuration changes on the
network devices. The most popular and common one is the
REST API. REST has been developed to make API calls
across networks and uses Hypertext Transfer Protocol
(HTTP) which is commonly used to pass the web traffic
[10]. They are simple and extensible and use a standard
TCP port and thus do not require any special configuration
to allow API calls to pass through firewalls [10]. SDN
Controller northbound API is shown in Fig. 4.
Floodlight controller provides both reactive and
proactive applications: Java APIs for reactive and
RESTful APIs for proactive application style. Proactive
Floodlight applications can use the RESTful APIs to get
information about the network state. Floodlight RESTful
API uses the Restlet framework and includes a small web
server inside that allows external applications to
communicate with the SDN controller. Floodlight
Controller Structure is shown in Fig.3.
Fig. 4. SDN controller northbound API
The web-based REST mechanism is based on some
methods such as HTTP GET, PUT, POST, and DELETE.
It is very easy to make these REST calls secure by using
HTTPS (Secure HTTP) protocol instead of HTTP. The
Floodlight Web GUI is built on the REST API.
Int. J. Advanced Networking and Applications
Volume: 08 Issue: 05 Pages: 3175-3180 (2017) ISSN: 0975-0290
In this section, we mention our Floodlight Web GUI in
detail. This GUI provides a way for users to view the
controller’s state information, to connect switches via
inter-switch links and the hosts to the network, to monitor
the flow tables of the switches and the network topology
[11]. Most of the statistics can be queried and displayed in
an easy-to-read and tabular fashion by using this web GUI.
Additionally, several modules of the Floodlight Controller
can be exposed to the end users via this web GUI. For
example, the Static Flow Pusher module has this GUI to
insert the flows easily [11].
We develop the Floodlight Web GUI’s home page as
the controller’s dashboard as in Fig. 5. Here, network
administrators can monitor the status, uptime, selected role
of the controller, connected switches count, connected
hosts count, and the links between the switches.
Also, the details about the controller’s memory
consumption, the storage tables, and all loaded modules
can be monitored. All of these parts of the GUI uses the
REST API calls of the Floodlight Controller.
Fig.7. Flow table of a switch
Web GUI presents a list of the hosts connected to the
network with the information of the MAC address of a
host, IPV4 address, IPV6 address, MAC address of the
connected switch, connected port of the switch, and last
seen time.
All links between the switches can be monitored via
GUI. Properties such as the direction of links, source
switch and its port, destination switch and its port, and
type of the link (internal, external) are the information
Floodlight controller comes with a firewall module. A
network administrator can change the status of the
firewall, can enable/disable the firewall and change subnet
mask of the firewall by using this module as in Fig. 8.
Also, new firewall rules can be added or deleted.
Fig. 5. Home page of the controller
One of the most important module of the GUI is the
switches module that gives some detailed information of
the connected switches such as flow count, packet count,
buffer size, flow table count, vendor, hardware, and
software version (see Fig. 6). Additionally, the
administrators can change the role of a switch to Master,
Slave or Equal by using this module.
Fig. 8. Firewall module of GUI
While adding a firewall rule, the parameters that must
be provided are switch id, source port, source mac address,
destination mac address, source IP address, destination IP
address, protocol type (TCP, UDP or ICMP), priority, and
action (ALLOW, DENY) [11].
Fig. 6. Flow summary table of a switch
It is possible to add static flow entries to the flow table
of a switch (see Fig. 7) and to monitor the port table of this
Floodlight contains an application that enforces Access
Control Lists (ACL) in a reactive way. It is a firewall
application that monitors Packet-in messages and then
pushes appropriate flow entries [11]. In a proactive way,
without being requested by the switch, the controller
enforces ACL rules to switches too. Thus, the controller
prevents additional delays [11].
Int. J. Advanced Networking and Applications
Volume: 08 Issue: 05 Pages: 3175-3180 (2017) ISSN: 0975-0290
Fig. 9 represents the record insertion to the ACL and
Table 1 gives the properties of an ACL rule.
Fig.9. Adding a record to the ACL
Table 1. Properties of an ACL rule
"TCP" or "UDP" or
"ICMP" (ignoring case)
Either src-ip or dst-ip
must be specified.
Either src-ip or dst-ip
must be specified.
Valid when nw-proto ==
"TCP" or "UDP".
(ignoring case), set to
"DENY" if not specified.
Topology discovering module of the Floodlight uses
LLDP protocol. And GUI calls the related RESTful API
method of this module. Topology view of network is
based on DIRECT and TUNNEL links discovered based
on LLDP packets [11]. Our sample SDN topology built in
the GUI is represented in Fig. 10.
Fig.10. SDN topology view in the GUI
The traditional network architecture cannot fulfill today’s
network requirements efficiently and the popularity of
SDN is increasing day by day.
SDN is the new network paradigm and can be easily
implemented to the classical networks. The Floodlight
controller and GUI provide many useful tools and a
programmable network framework. SDN is just a new tool
for developing new applications to solve networkmanagement problems more easily. To support more
widely ranged network services, SDN applications would
require much more complex methods to analyze and
control the network traffic, and programmable hardware.
Before developing an SDN application, the developer
must decide between two general styles of SDN
applications: reactive or proactive. In case of the reactive
SDN applications, the output of the communication
between the switch and the controller is usually a new
flow entry in the switch’s flow table. Reactive applications
can program multiple switches parallelly. On the other
hand, the proactive SDN applications require less
communication from switch to controller. The proactive
SDN applications program switches connected to the
network with the flow entries that are appropriate to
control and manage the incoming traffic before it arrives at
the switch.
The reactive type is more useful when the connectivity
to the controller is lost but less additional latency is
provided with the proactive programming.
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