The Network as a Programmable Platform

Distinguished Lecture Series: Nick McKeown, Stanford University
Host: Department of Computer Science

In the past 10 years, large network owners and operators have taken control of the software that controls their networks. They are now starting to take control of how packets are processed too. Networks, for the first time, are on the cusp of being programmable end-to-end, specified top-to-bottom, and defined entirely by software. We will think of the network as a programmable platform, a distributed system, that we specify top-down using software, rather than protocols. This has big ramifications for networks in the future, creating some interesting new possibilities to verify that a network is “correct by construction”, to measure and validate its behavior in real-time against a network specification, and to correct bugs through closed-loop control.

Speaker Biography

Nick McKeown is the Kleiner Perkins, Mayfield and Sequoia Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Stanford University. His research work has focused mostly on how to improve and scale the Internet. From 1988-2005, he focused mostly on making the Internet faster; since 2005, he has focused on how to evolve networks faster than before. He co-founded several networking startups, including Nicira (SDN and network virtualization), and Barefoot Networks (programmable switches and P4). He co-founded the Open Networking Foundation (ONF), the Open Networking Lab (ON.Lab) and the P4 Language Consortium (, and an educational non-profit called “CS Bridge” dedicated to teaching high school students worldwide, in-person, how to program. Nick is a member of the NAE, the AAAS, and a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering (UK). He received the ACM Sigcomm Lifetime Achievement Award (2012), the NEC C&C Prize (2015) and an Honorary Doctorate from ETH (2014).