Network Emulation with P7: A P4 Programmable Patch Panel on Tofino-based Hardware

  • Fabricio Rodriguez UNICAMP
  • Francisco Germano Vogt UNICAMP
  • Ariel Góes De Castro Unipampa
  • Marcos Schwarz RNP
  • Christian Rothenberg UNICAMP


The use of virtual and software-based environments, such as Mininet, has become popular for network experimentation. However, these platforms often have limitations, including low transmission speeds and trade-offs between scalability and performance fidelity. Advances in P4 programmability and new P4 hardware that supports Tofino Native Architecture (TNA) have enabled the possibility of emulating various network link characteristics and creating network topologies for running line-rate traffic in a single P4 switch (i.e., Tofino). In this paper, we introduce the P7 (P4 Programmable Patch Panel) emulator, which allows the configuration of network scenarios with different link characteristics, including 100G traffic capacities, using a single P4 switch. We demonstrate the scalability and realism of the P7 emulator, making it an ideal environment for network research and experimentation.


Bosshart, P. et al. (2014). P4: Programming protocol-independent packet processors. SIGCOMM, 44(3):87–95.

Cao, J. et al. (2020). Turbonet: Faithfully emulating networks with programmable switches. In IEEE 28th ICNP, pages 1–11, Madrid, Spain. IEEE.

Fontes, R. R. et al. (2015). Mininet-wifi: Emulating software-defined wireless networks. In 2015 11th CNSM, pages 384–389, Barcelona, Spain. IEEE.

Kannan, P. G. et al. (2018). Bnv: Enabling scalable network experimentation through bare-metal network virtualization. In USENIX, CSET’18, page 6, USA.

Koponen, T. et al. (2014). Network virtualization in multi-tenant datacenters. In USENIX NSDI, pages 203–216, Seattle, WA. USENIX Association.

Lantz, B., Heller, B., and McKeown, N. (2010). A network in a laptop: Rapid prototyping for software-defined networks. In SIGCOMM, Hotnets-IX, NY, USA. ACM.

Li, H. et al. (2020). Enabling end-to-end simulation for host networking evaluation using simbricks.

Liu, H. H. et al. (2017). Crystalnet: Faithfully emulating large production networks. In 26th SOSP, NY, USA. ACM.

Rodriguez, F. et al. (2022). P4 Programmable Patch Panel (P7): An Instant 100g Emulated Network on Your Tofino-Based Pizza Box. In SIGCOMM, page 4–6, NY, USA. ACM.
RODRIGUEZ, Fabricio; VOGT, Francisco Germano; CASTRO, Ariel Góes De; SCHWARZ, Marcos; ROTHENBERG, Christian. Network Emulation with P7: A P4 Programmable Patch Panel on Tofino-based Hardware. In: SALÃO DE FERRAMENTAS - SIMPÓSIO BRASILEIRO DE REDES DE COMPUTADORES E SISTEMAS DISTRIBUÍDOS (SBRC), 41. , 2023, Brasília/DF. Anais [...]. Porto Alegre: Sociedade Brasileira de Computação, 2023 . p. 40-47. ISSN 2177-9384. DOI: