In today’s networks, load balancing and priority queues in switches are used to support various quality-of-service (QoS) features and provide preferential treatment to certain types of traffic. Traditionally, network operators use ‘traceroute’ and ‘ping’ to troubleshoot load balancing and QoS problems. However, these tools are not supported by the common OpenFlow-based switches in software-defined networking (SDN). In addition, traceroute and ping have potential problems. Because load balancing mechanisms balance flows to different paths, it is impossible for these tools to send a single type of probe packet to find the forwarding paths of flows and measure latencies. Therefore, tracing flows’ real forwarding paths is needed before measuring their latencies, and path tracing and latency measurement should be jointly considered. To this end, FlowTrace is proposed to find arbitrary flow paths and measure flow latencies in OpenFlow networks. FlowTrace collects all flow entries and calculates flow paths according to the collected flow entries. However, polling flow entries from switches will induce high overhead in the control plane of SDN. Therefore, a passive flow table collecting method with zero control plane overhead is proposed to address this problem. After finding flows’ real forwarding paths, FlowTrace uses a new measurement method to measure the latencies of different flows. Results of experiments conducted in Mininet indicate that FlowTrace can correctly find flow paths and accurately measure the latencies of flows in different priority classes.

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Keywords Network monitoring, Software-defined networking, Traceroute
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Journal Frontiers of Information Technology and Electronic Engineering
Wang, S. (Shuo), Zhang, J. (Jiao), Huang, T. (Tao), Liu, J. (Jiang), Liu, Y.-J. (Yun-jie), & Yu, F.R. (2017). FlowTrace: measuring round-trip time and tracing path in software-defined networking with low communication overhead. Frontiers of Information Technology and Electronic Engineering, 18(2), 206–219. doi:10.1631/FITEE.1601280