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Network management plays a central role in keeping networks up and running. An important network management task is configuring a network’s “control plane”. The control plane governs how the network moves data around, and plays a critical role in imposing important security and compliance policies, such as, who can/not communicate, which communications to prioritize or isolate, etc. Typical control planes are composed of several distributed routing protocol configurations spread across many hundreds of network devices. Unfortunately, this complexity often leads to configuration bugs that cause large-scale outages, blackholes, and isolation breaches.

In this talk, I will survey recent advances that are transforming the field of network management from the ground up. These techniques, inspired by formal methods, aim to automate key network management tasks, and systematically improve resilience, and trustworthiness of networks. These techniques automatically verify whether networks satisfy important properties; synthesize networks with provably correct policies realizations; and repair broken networks with minimal or no human involvement. In the limit, these advances lead to “zero touch” networking.

The impact of this confluence of formal methods and networking is transforming not just management but other big portions of the field of networking into a science. It is leading to new approaches to designing network hardware, topologies, protocols, and software from precise high-level specifications and with strong provable guarantees. I will survey emerging ideas in these directions as well.


Aditya Akella is a Professor of Computer Sciences and an H. I. Romnes Faculty Fellow at UW-Madison. He received his B. Tech. in Computer Science from IIT Madras in 2000, and PhD in Computer Science from CMU in 2005. His research spans computer networks and systems, with a focus on network verification, synthesis, and repair, data center networking, software defined networks, and big data systems. Aditya has published over 100 papers, and has served as the program co-chair for several conferences including NSDI, SIGMETRICS, and HotNets. He is currently the Vice Chair for ACM SIGCOMM.  Aditya co-leads CloudLab (http://cloudlab.us), a large-scale testbed for foundational cloud research. Aditya has received several awards including the “UW-Madison CS Professor of the Year” Award (2017), Vilas Associates Award (2017), IRTF Applied Networking Research Prize (2015), ACM SIGCOMM Rising Star Award (2014), NSF CAREER Award (2008) and several best paper awards.