Analytical Modelling of Software and Hardware Switches with Internal Buffer in Software-Defined Networks

Deepak Singh*, Bryan Ng, Yuan Cheng Lai, Ying-Dar Lin, Winston K.G. Seah

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


OpenFlow supports internal buffering of data packets in Software-Defined Networking (SDN) switch whereby a fraction of data packet header is sent to the controller instead of an entire data packet. This internal buffering increases the robustness and the utilization of the link between SDN switches and the controller by absorbing temporary burst of packets which may overwhelm the controller. Existing queuing models for an SDN have focused on the switches that immediately sends packets to the controller for decisioning, with no existing models investigating the impact of the internal buffer in SDN software and hardware switches. In this paper, we propose a unified queueing model to characterise the performance of SDN software and hardware switches with the internal buffer. This unified queueing model is an analytical tool for network engineers to predict a delay and loss during SDN deployments in delay and loss sensitive environments. Our results show that a hardware switch achieves up to 80% lower average packet transfer delay and 99% lower packet loss rate at the cost of requiring up to 50% more queue capacity than a software switch. The proposed models are validated with a discrete event simulation, where the error between 0.6% and 2.8% was observed for both average packet transfer delay and average packet loss rate. Moreover, a hardware switch outperforms a software switch with increasing number of hosts per switch suggesting that a hardware switch has better scalability. We use the insights from the model to develop guidelines that help network engineers decide between a software and hardware switch in their SDN deployments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)22-37
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Network and Computer Applications
StatePublished - 15 Jun 2019


  • Hardware Switch
  • Internal buffer
  • Modeling
  • Queuing Theory
  • Software Switch
  • Software-Defined Networks


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