*Draft* An Intro to OpenFlow@ORBIT

This page is meant to get you up and running quickly with OpenFlow-related experiments/development on the ORBIT testbeds.


I. A simple OpenFlow Network
II. More complex examples
III. Installation

I. A simple OpenFlow Network

We begin with a simple setup of a Mininet network controlled by a controller (Floodlight) running on a separate Sandbox node, which looks like this:

   node1-1  link   node1-2

1.1 Some prerequisites - Using the prepackaged node image

To make things easier, we provide images pre-installed with several potentially useful packages, including:

This makes things easy since you can image multiple nodes with the same image, and pick and choose what to run where.

The image is named of-pkg.ndz. omf can be used to image nodes with it:

$ omf load -i of-pkg.ndz

The nodes will be off after it's imaged. Turn them on:

$ omf tell -a on

Once on, you can log into them as root using their names, e.g. node1-1.

1.1.1 node/Sandbox layout

When you log onto a Sandbox, you are logged into the console machine, from which you can use omf and the likes to image and log onto/manage the nodes.

Each node (save those on sandbox4) have two interfaces. The first, eth1, connects to your console connection for managing the nodes, and is assigned an IP address of the form 10.1x.y.z, where x = sandbox number, and y and z = node number e.g. if your node is named node1-2, and is part of Sandbox8, it will be Do not take down this interface or change its address - you will lose your connection. The second, eth0, is down by default, and is open to any kind of use. Both are gigabit links and can be used for experimentation, but in general, the second one should be used unless there are specific circumstances.

1.1.2 managing/configuring nodes

This is done by using SSH to log into the nodes as root. Logging into each is okay, but can get cumbersome if you have many nodes, on which you have to do the exact same thing. In this case, commands may also be issued via SSH from the console, without manually logging into each node (and ending up with a dozen terminal windows):

user@console.sb8:~$ ssh -o StrictHostKeyChecking="no" root@node1-1 "command_to_run_1;command_to_run_2"

This runs command_to_run_1 and command_to_run_2 on node1-1 as if you'd logged into it to issue it at the shell.

Each command is delimited by a semicolon, and the full string is surrounded by double quotes. The -o StrictHostKeyChecking="no" stops SSH from checking host keys and is optional.
This can be used in a script to run from the console to quickly set up many nodes. We use it in some of the following examples to make it easier to show what is happening where.

1.1.3 Installing your own tools

For people interested in learning more about/installing these packages, they can refer to Section II for a summary and quick setup instructions for each and links to more information.

1.2 Running the network

As a two-node example, we image the nodes on Sandbox8, as explained in Section 1.1. One is used for the controller, and the other, the Mininet network.

  1. Bring up and assign addresses to eth0 of the nodes. Both should be in the same IP block. If done from console, the commands look like this:
    $ ssh root@node1-1 "ifconfig eth0 inet up"
    $ ssh root@node1-2 "ifconfig eth0 inet up"
    The nodes should now be able to ping eachother via eth0:
    $ ssh root@node1-1 "ping -c 1"
    PING ( 56(84) bytes of data.
    64 bytes from icmp_req=1 ttl=64 time=0.614 ms
    --- ping statistics ---
    1 packets transmitted, 1 received, 0% packet loss, time 0ms
    rtt min/avg/max/mdev = 0.614/0.614/0.614/0.000 ms
  1. Start the controller on one node. We arbitrarily pick node1-1. From a shell on node1-1, launch Floodlight:
    # cd floodlight
    # java -jar target/floodlight.jar
    After you give it a few seconds, Floodlight should be listening to port 6633 on all interfaces available on the node (eth0, 1, and lo). If you want, you can start up tcpdump or something similar on a separate terminal on node1-1 to begin capturing control messages:
    # tcpdump -i lo port 6633 
    Alternatively, you can start tcpdump to write to a .pcap file for later analysis with wireshark with the OpenFlow plugin.
    # tcpdump -w outfile.pcap -i lo port 6633 
  2. Launch Mininet. From another shell on node1-2:
    # mn --topo=single,2 --controller=remote,ip=
    This will give you a virtual network of two hosts and one switch pointed to the running Floodlight instance on node1-1. Once at the prompt, try pinging one host from the other:
    mininet> h1 ping h2
    PING ( 56(84) bytes of data.
    64 bytes from icmp_req=1 ttl=64 time=8.19 ms
    64 bytes from icmp_req=2 ttl=64 time=0.164 ms
    64 bytes from icmp_req=3 ttl=64 time=0.025 ms
    64 bytes from icmp_req=4 ttl=64 time=0.024 ms
    --- ping statistics ---
    4 packets transmitted, 4 received, 0% packet loss, time 2999ms
    rtt min/avg/max/mdev = 0.024/2.101/8.193/3.517 ms

Notice how the first ping takes much longer. This is due to the flow installation process triggered by the first ping (Specifically, the ARPs sent by the hosts) as the switch suffers a flow table miss. At the same time, you should see (lots of) packets being captured by tcpdump in node1-1's terminal:

root@node1-1:~/floodlight# tcpdump -i eth0 port 6633
tcpdump: verbose output suppressed, use -v or -vv for full protocol decode
listening on eth0, link-type EN10MB (Ethernet), capture size 65535 bytes
20:18:30.188181 IP > Flags [S], seq 3242563912, win 14600, options [mss 1460,sackOK,TS val 699854 ecr 0,nop,wscale 4], length 0
20:18:30.188321 IP > Flags [S.], seq 2665849071, ack 3242563913, win 14480, options [mss 1460,sackOK,TS val 700809 ecr 699854,nop,wscale 4], length 0
20:18:30.188466 IP > Flags [.], ack 1, win 913, options [nop,nop,TS val 699854 ecr 700809], length 0
20:18:30.188618 IP > Flags [F.], seq 1, ack 1, win 913, options [nop,nop,TS val 699854 ecr 700809], length 0
20:18:30.190310 IP > Flags [.], ack 2, win 905, options [nop,nop,TS val 700810 ecr 699854], length 0
20:18:30.224204 IP > Flags [P.], seq 1:9, ack 2, win 905, options [nop,nop,TS val 700818 ecr 699854], length 8
20:18:30.224426 IP > Flags [R], seq 3242563914, win 0, length 0
20:18:30.402564 IP > Flags [S], seq 1611313095, win 14600, options [mss 1460,sackOK,TS val 699908 ecr 0,nop,wscale 4], length 0
20:18:30.402585 IP > Flags [S.], seq 367168075, ack 1611313096, win 14480, options [mss 1460,sackOK,TS val 700863 ecr 699908,nop,wscale 4], length 0

1.2.1 Using Wireshark

In the above example, tcpdump can be replaced by wireshark. Wireshark is "friendlier" in that it has a GUI and an OpenFlow dissector plugin is available for it. In order to use Wireshark, you must enable X11 forwarding from your workstation to the node, with the -X or -Y flag for ssh e.g.:

ssh -X -l root node1-1

1.2.2 Using OpenVswitch directly

Mininet's datapaths are backed by OVS. Therefore, if you have a Mininet install, you get OVS for "free". You can use OVS directly for your data plane.

II More complex examples

It is possible to run multiple instances of controllers (for whatever reason), or different logical components together in the same network. This section shows two examples of more complex SDN network setups - multiple controller instances and with FlowVisor, a network hypervisor.


2.1 Multiple Controllers
2.2 Network virtualization/slicing

2.1 Multiple Controllers

You may have multiple controllers in the same logical space of the control plane for various reasons - special applications, fail-over, distributed control planes, etc.

  • 2.1.1 On multiple hosts
  • 2.1.2 On the same host

2.1.1 On multiple hosts

If each controller is running on its own host (machine, VM, etc.), there is little to change; if you have hosts A,B, and C, and Floodlight instances running on each, switches can be pointed to targets A:6633, B:6633, C:6633, or any combination thereof (switches can be pointed to multiple controllers).

2.1.2 On the same host

The Floodlight configuration file

Multiple instances of Floodlight may be run on the same host, as long as each controller listens on a separate set of sockets. In this case, all controllers would be on the same IP address(es), so you must change the ports they are listening on. These ports include the OpenFlow control port (TCP 6633), REST API (TCP 8080), and debug (TCP 6655).

In Floodlight, this value can be changed by modifying the file, located in src/main/resources/ of the Floodlight sources. (Currently) It looks like this:


Several entries can be added to this list to tweak TCP port values. Unfortunately, these entries may change fairly frequently due to active development.

  • net.floodlightcontroller.restserver.RestApiServer.port = 8080
  • net.floodlightcontroller.core.internal.FloodlightProvider.openflowport = 6633
  • net.floodlightcontroller.jython.JythonDebugInterface.port = 6655

Each entry should be on its own line, with no spaces or newlines in between lines. For example, to change the port that Floodlight listens for switches on from the default of 6633 to 6634, append:

net.floodlightcontroller.core.internal.FloodlightProvider.openflowport = 6634

To the .properties file. Then, point Floodlight to the configuration file with the -cf flag:

java -jar target/floodlight.jar -cf src/main/resources/

The file specified after -cf will be read in, and the values in it used to configure the controller instance. You should be able to confirm the change:

# netstat -nlp | grep 6634
tcp6       0      0 :::6634                 :::*                    LISTEN      2029/java       

Launching multiple controllers

Each instance of the controller run on the same host can be pointed to its own .properties file with the -cf flag, with different port value parameters. Begin by making as many copies of the default .properties file as you will have controllers. Going with a similar example as earlier, you can have one host A and three Floodlight instances 1,2, and 3, configured as below:

1 2 3
FloodlightProvider.openflowport 6633 6634 6635
RestApiServer.port 8080 8081 8082
JythonDebugInterface.port 6655 6656 6657

No ports should be shared by the three instances, or else they will probably throw errors at startup and exit shortly after. With a .properties file for each instance under resources/ (named 1,2, and for this example), you can launch the controllers in a loop for example:

for i in `seq 1 3`; do
   java -jar target/floodlight.jar -cf src/main/resources/$ 1>/dev/null 2>&1 &

This should launch three backgrounded instances of Floodlight.

2.2 Network virtualization/slicing

A more typical case you might encounter is a network that is sliced, or virtualized.

  • 2.2.1 A brief intro to network virtualization
  • 2.2.2 Virtualization with multiple hosts
  • 2.2.3 On the same host

2.2.1 A brief intro to network virtualization

A virtualized network is organized as below:

[controller 1] [controller 2] [controller 3]
             \       |       /
              \      |      /
            [network hypervisor]-[policies]

A network hyperviser like FlowVisor sits between the control and data plane, intercepting and re-writing the contents of the OpenFlow control channel to one or more controllers running independently of one another. Ultimately, the network hypervisor provides each controller with an illusion that it is the only controller in the network. It accomplishes this by

  1. Rewriting the topology information conveyed by OpenFlow (in the form of PORT_STATs and PacketIns triggered by LLDP messages) before it reaches each controller, allowing it to only work on a subset, or slice, of the network, and
  2. Mapping the PacketIns/PacketOuts to and from each controller to the proper sets of switches and switch ports.

How the re-writing occurs depends on a set of admin-defined policies.

2.2.2 Virtualization with multiple hosts

We begin by introducing a simple example of a virtualized topology:

[Floodlight 1] [Floodlight 2]
           \    /

Each component above will be run on a separate node. Since we need more than two nodes, you may want to reserve either Sandboxes 4 or 9. The components can also be run on the same node, with the caveats discussed in the next section, 2.2.3.

Here, Mininet will be used to emulate a three-switch, three-host data plane:

h1   h2   h3
 |    |    | 

This data plane will be sliced so that one Floodlight instance will control switches s1 and s2, and the other, s3.

2.2.3 On the same host

As with the case of multiple controllers on the same VM/host, you must be careful that neither FlowVisor nor the controllers listen on the same sets of ports. For the multiple controllers, this can be avoided as described in Section 2.1.2. FlowVisor and Floodlight conflict on ports 6633 and 8080.

III Installation

The following are the installation steps and basic usage for the software that are found on the image. For more information, refer to their respective pages; Floodlight and Mininet in particular have very thorough docs.

Quick links:

3.1 Floodlight
3.2 Mininet
3.3 CBench
3.4 liboftrace
3.5 Wireshark
3.6 FlowVisor

Note, the following examples are for Ubuntu, since that's what is used at WINLAB. A quick search will often bring up hints/steps for CentOS/RHEL and OSX, but for the most part, you will have to experiment a bit.

3.1 Floodlight


For the most part the following is a repetition of some of the things there. Truth be told, if you plan to modify/develop on Floodlight it is better to just install it on a local machine where you can use eclipse (either that, or you can try to X11 forward, but that doesn't always go well).


sudo apt-get install git-core build-essential default-jdk ant python-dev eclipse


The following fetches and builds the latest stable release:

git clone git://
cd floodlight
git checkout fl-last-passed-build

To import as a project on Eclipse, run the following while in the same directory:

ant eclipse


Assuming everything worked out:

java -jar target/floodlight.jar

from the floodlight/ directory launches Floodlight. It will output a bunch of messages while it searches for, loads, and initializes modules. You can refer to the output attached below for what it should look like - there may be warnings, but they should be harmless.

This command also launches in the foreground, so you can either launch it in a terminal multiplexer like screen or tmux, or with a 1>logfile 2>&1 & tacked to the end. The former is probably recommended.


Tutorials and other information can be found here:

3.2 Mininet

It is highly recommended to run trough the docs, especially the following:

If you post to the list especially before you read the FAQ's, you will likely just be asked if you have checked them.


The VM is the recommended way to run Mininet on your machine.
The following is for a native install (as on the node image).

The method differs for different versions of Ubuntu. The following is for 12.04. For others, refer to this page. The following also takes care of the dependencies.

sudo apt-get install mininet/precise-backports

Then disable ovs-controller:

sudo service openvswitch-controller stop
sudo update-rc.d openvswitch-controller disable

You may also need to start open Vswitch:

sudo service openvswitch-switch start

You can verify that it works with the following:

sudo mn --test pingall

This sets up a 2-host, 1-switch topology and pings between the hosts. The output looks similar to this:

*** Creating network
*** Adding controller
*** Adding hosts:
h1 h2 
*** Adding switches:
*** Adding links:
(h1, s1) (h2, s1) 
*** Configuring hosts
h1 h2 
*** Starting controller
*** Starting 1 switches
*** Ping: testing ping reachability
h1 -> h2 
h2 -> h1 
*** Results: 0% dropped (0/2 lost)
*** Stopping 2 hosts
h1 h2 
*** Stopping 1 switches
s1 ...
*** Stopping 1 controllers
*** Done
completed in 0.460 seconds


There are many flags and options associated with launching Mininet. mn --help will display them.
For example, to start the same topology as the pingall test, but with a controller running separately from Mininet:

# mn --topo=single,2 --controller=remote,ip= --mac
*** Creating network
*** Adding controller
*** Adding hosts:
h1 h2 
*** Adding switches:
*** Adding links:
(h1, s1) (h2, s1) 
*** Configuring hosts
h1 h2 
*** Starting controller
*** Starting 1 switches
*** Starting CLI:
  • —topo=single,2 : one switch with two hosts
  • —controller=remote,ip= : controller at
  • —mac : non-random MAC addresses

Some useful ones are:

  • controller external to Mininet, at IP addr and port p:
  • non-random host MAC addresses (starting at 00:00:00:00:00:01 for h1)


You can find available commands for the command line by typing ? at the prompt. exit quits Mininet.
Some basic examples:

  • display topology:
    mininet> net
    s1 lo:  s1-eth1:h1-eth0 s1-eth2:h2-eth0
    h1 h1-eth0:s1-eth1
    h2 h2-eth0:s1-eth2
  • display host network info:
    mininet> h1 ifconfig
    h1-eth0   Link encap:Ethernet  HWaddr 00:00:00:00:00:01  
              inet addr:  Bcast:  Mask:
              inet6 addr: fe80::200:ff:fe00:1/64 Scope:Link
              UP BROADCAST RUNNING MULTICAST  MTU:1500  Metric:1
              RX packets:135 errors:0 dropped:124 overruns:0 frame:0
              TX packets:7 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 carrier:0
              collisions:0 txqueuelen:1000 
              RX bytes:8906 (8.9 KB)  TX bytes:558 (558.0 B)
    lo        Link encap:Local Loopback  
              inet addr:  Mask:
              inet6 addr: ::1/128 Scope:Host
              UP LOOPBACK RUNNING  MTU:16436  Metric:1
              RX packets:0 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 frame:0
              TX packets:0 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 carrier:0
              collisions:0 txqueuelen:0 
              RX bytes:0 (0.0 B)  TX bytes:0 (0.0 B)
  • ping host 1 from host 2
    mininet> h2 ping h1
    PING ( 56(84) bytes of data.
    64 bytes from icmp_req=1 ttl=64 time=10.0 ms
    --- ping statistics ---
    1 packets transmitted, 1 received, 0% packet loss, time 0ms
    rtt min/avg/max/mdev = 10.026/10.026/10.026/0.000 ms


Mininet has a Python API, whose docs can be found online:
Examples can also be found here:

Once you write a script, you can run it as a script:


3.3 Cbench



sudo apt-get install autoconf automake libtool libsnmp-dev libpcap-dev


git clone git://
cd openflow; git checkout -b mybranch origin/release/1.0.0
git clone git://
git submodule init && git submodule update
tar -xvzf libconfig-1.4.9.tar.gz
cd libconfig-1.4.9
sudo make && sudo make install
cd ../oflops/
sh ./ ; ./configure --with-openflow-src-dir=${OF_PATH}/openflow/
make install

Where OF_PATH is where you had cloned the OpenFlow repository to.


Run from the cbench directory under oflops:

cd cbench 
cbench -c localhost -p 6633 -m 10000 -l 10 -s 16 -M 1000 -t 
  • -c localhost : controller at loopback
  • -p 6633 : controller listaning at port 6633
  • -m 10000 : 10000 ms (10 sec) per test
  • -l 10 : 10 loops(trials) per test
  • -s 16 : 16 emulated switches
  • -M 1000 : 1000 unique MAC addresses(hosts) per switch
  • -t : throughput testing

for the complete list, use the -h flag.

The output for the above command looks like this:

cbench: controller benchmarking tool
   running in mode 'throughput'
   connecting to controller at localhost:6633 
   faking 16 switches offset 1 :: 3 tests each; 10000 ms per test
   with 10 unique source MACs per switch
   learning destination mac addresses before the test
   starting test with 0 ms delay after features_reply
   ignoring first 1 "warmup" and last 0 "cooldown" loops
   connection delay of 0ms per 1 switch(es)
   debugging info is off
16:53:14.384 16  switches: flows/sec:  18  18  18  18  18  18  18  18  18  18  18  18  18  18  18  18   total = 0.028796 per ms 
16:53:24.485 16  switches: flows/sec:  20  20  20  20  20  20  20  20  20  20  20  20  20  20  20  20   total = 0.031999 per ms 
16:53:34.590 16  switches: flows/sec:  24  24  24  24  24  24  24  24  24  24  24  24  24  24  24  24   total = 0.038380 per ms 
RESULT: 16 switches 2 tests min/max/avg/stdev = 32.00/38.38/35.19/3.19 responses/s

3.4 liboftrace (ofdump/ofstats)



sudo apt-get install libpcap-dev swig libssl-dev


git clone git://
cd oftrace
./configure --with-openflow-src-dir=${OF_PATH}/openflow/
make && make install


There are two tools pre-packaged with liboftrace (as per a mailing-list entry):

  1. ofstats: a program which calculates the controller processing delay, i.e., the difference in time between a packet_in message and the corresponding packet_out or flow_mod message.
  2. ofdump: a program that simply lists openflow message types with timestamps by switch/controller pair.

Both have the same syntax:

[ofstats|ofdump] [controller IP] [OF port]

Without the arguments it defaults to localhost:6633.

For example, with a pcap file named sample.pcap from a tcpdump session sniffing for traffic from a controller at, port 6637:

# ofdump sample.pcap 6637
DBG: tracking NEW stream :> 
DBG: tracking NEW stream :> 
FROM           TO   OFP_TYPE 0      LEN 8   TIME 0.000000
FROM          TO    OFP_TYPE 0      LEN 8   TIME 0.026077
FROM           TO   OFP_TYPE 5      LEN 8   TIME 0.029839
FROM          TO    OFP_TYPE 6      LEN 128 TIME 0.1070415


FROM          TO    OFP_TYPE 10     LEN 60  TIME 0.2038485
 --- 2 sessions:  0 0
FROM           TO   OFP_TYPE 13     LEN 24  TIME 0.2038523
FROM          TO    OFP_TYPE 10     LEN 60  TIME 0.2038573
FROM           TO   OFP_TYPE 13     LEN 24  TIME 0.2038614
FROM          TO    OFP_TYPE 10     LEN 60  TIME 0.2038663
FROM           TO   OFP_TYPE 13     LEN 24  TIME 0.2038704
Total OpenFlow Messages: 20015


# ofstats sample.pcap 6637  
Reading from pcap file 1.pcap for controller on port 6637
DBG: tracking NEW stream :> 
DBG: tracking NEW stream :> 
0.008088        secs_to_resp buf_id=333 in flow -> - packet_out - 0 queued
0.000454        secs_to_resp buf_id=334 in flow -> - packet_out - 2 queued
0.000437        secs_to_resp buf_id=335 in flow -> - packet_out - 1 queued
0.000534        secs_to_resp buf_id=336 in flow -> - packet_out - 0 queued
0.000273        secs_to_resp buf_id=337 in flow -> - packet_out - 2 queued
0.000486        secs_to_resp buf_id=338 in flow -> - packet_out - 2 queued
0.000379        secs_to_resp buf_id=339 in flow -> - packet_out - 1 queued
0.000275        secs_to_resp buf_id=340 in flow -> - packet_out - 0 queued
0.000135        secs_to_resp buf_id=10330 in flow -> - packet_out - 1 queued
0.000132        secs_to_resp buf_id=10331 in flow -> - packet_out - 1 queued
0.000131        secs_to_resp buf_id=10332 in flow -> - packet_out - 0 queued

Since the outputs are dumped to stdout it is probably best to redirect it to a file for parsing later, like so:

# ofstats sample.pcap 6637 > outfile

3.5 Wireshark




sudo apt-get install libpcap-dev bison flex libgtk2.0-dev build-essential 


sudo apt-get install scons mercurial


You need the source for Wireshark to build the plugin. At the time of this writing Wireshark is at v.1.10.

tar -xjf wireshark-1.10.0.tar.bz2 
cd wireshark-1.10.0/

The above is sufficient for the plugin. Installing Wireshark from source e.g. with make;make install can take a while, so you may choose to install the binary, i.e. do:

apt-get install wireshark

If you decide to build from source, also install libwiretap1.

Next fetch and build the plugin:

hg clone
cd of-dissector/
export WIRESHARK=${WS_ROOT}/wireshark-1.10.0/
cd src
scons install
cp /usr/lib/wireshark/libwireshark1/plugins/

Where ${WS_ROOT} is the directory you've untarred the Wireshark source to. The plugin directory may also differ depending on if you installed Wireshark from source or not - if you did, the path will be something similar to /usr/local/lib/wireshark/plugins/1.10.0/


Run Wireshark as root:

sudo wireshark

You should see in the list of plugins if you go to Help > About Wireshark > plugins.

3.6 FlowVisor


Last modified 9 years ago Last modified on Dec 7, 2014, 10:01:55 PM
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