P4 Paper Picked as Winner of 2024 ACM SIGCOMM Test of Time Award

SAN JOSE, Calif. June 18, 2024 – P4.org today announced the paper that launched the P4 movement – published in 2014 – has won the prestigious 2024 ACM SIGCOMM Test of Time Award. ACM SIGCOMM is the world’s top conference in networking. The paper, “P4: programming protocol-independent packet processors,” was authored by Pat Bosshart, Dan Daly, Glen Gibb, Martin Izzard, Nick McKeown, Jennifer Rexford, Cole Schlesinger, Dan Talayco, Amin Vahdat, George Varghese, and David Walker and published in ACM SIGCOMM Computer Communication Review, 44(3), 2014. Over the past decade, it has been cited over 3,000 times[1].

This paper is significant because it provided the foundation for the P4 language and the community of programmers who use P4. P4 changed how we think about the networking by making the forwarding plane – i.e., the switches, routers, firewalls, load-balancers and NICs that forward packets through a network – fully programmable. P4 was the first language to give programmers full control of how packets are processed as they pass through the network. Providing end-to-end network programmability enables customization of packet processing pipelines, agility in making changes, performance optimization, interoperability in heterogeneous environments, innovation, and vendor neutrality.

Since P4 was invented in 2014, an array of companies has used it to evolve their networks faster, adding new features like In-Network Telemetry (INT), which provides greater visibility into how networks work. P4 also led to the introduction of several programmable switches and SmartNICs, demonstrating – to the surprise of many – that network elements can be programmed without compromising their speed or power consumption.

“Before P4, networks were stuck in the dark ages” said Nick McKeown, Senior Fellow at Intel and Professor at Stanford University. “Changing a simple feature often took three or four years to go through standards bodies and the chip design process. It was the last vestige of fixed, rigid processing in computer systems. P4 liberated networks from slow-moving standards, allowing programmers to define and deploy a new capability in just a few hours, lifting protocols and capabilities out of fixed-function hardware up into software. P4 lets networks evolve and improve more rapidly and has therefore come to be an important component of SDN (Software Defined Networking).”

“P4 has had a tremendous impact on the networking field over the past decade” said Nate Foster, Chair of the P4 Directed Fund Governing Board and Professor at Cornell University. “In industry, P4 has completely changed the conversation, from one considering whether programmability is possible or needed to one asking how programmability can be achieved on a variety of targets. In academia, P4 empowered the research community to experiment with a wide range of data plane algorithms that were off-limits to them before. It can be seen as completing the original vision of SDN, making the entire network programmable, both control plane and data plane. Few papers can claim this level of impact.”

The ACM SIGCOMM Test of Time Award is an annual award that recognizes papers published in the previous 10-12 years in Computer Communication Review or a SIGCOMM sponsored or co-sponsored event, that is deemed as an outstanding paper whose content is still vibrant and a useful resource today. Award selection is by a committee appointed by the SIGCOMM Award Committee Chair.

Today, the P4 community continues its evolution of the P4 language with strong support from commercial and educational institution members such as China Mobile, Google, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Iowa State University, Intel, Northeastern University, Universidad de Alcala, Universidad de Burgos, Universita di Pisa, Zhejiang University and ZTE.


About P4.org
P4.org is an open source community-driven organization focused on advancing development as well as fostering education and adoption of the P4 programming language among researchers, engineers, and industry stakeholders. The organization hosts resources such as specifications, reference implementations, tools, and educational materials to support the P4 community and is hosted by the Linux Foundation. For further information, visit https://p4.org/

About the Linux Foundation
The Linux Foundation is the world’s leading home for collaboration on open source software, hardware, standards, and data. Linux Foundation projects are critical to the world’s infrastructure including Linux, Kubernetes, Node.js, ONAP, OpenChain, OpenSSF, PyTorch, RISC-V, SPDX, and more. The Linux Foundation focuses on leveraging best practices and addressing the needs of contributors, users, and solution providers to create sustainable models for open collaboration. For more information, please visit us at linuxfoundation.org. The Linux Foundation has registered trademarks and uses trademarks. For a list of trademarks of The Linux Foundation, please see its trademark usage page: www.linuxfoundation.org/trademark-usage. Linux is a registered trademark of Linus Torvalds.

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Denise Barton

[1] Google Scholar 

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