Part of the interest in programmatic interfaces is fueled by the desire to logically centralize network control functions. A global view of network state can have many benefits but it does not preclude the use of distributed protocols within the network. Network Programming Interfaces (NPIs) provide a facility to construct global state, mutate that state and distribute that state to the network which in combination with distributed protocols can aid in achieving greater network efficiencies, improve visibility, robustness and add to the value of the network overall. When used the right way, these NPIs will help set a new balance between centralized and distributed control. Key to this balance will be domain or deployment specific constraints. Read More »
So, goings on with OpenFlow and the Open Networking Foundation (ONF) are always lively topics for discussion. Since our announcement of Cisco ONE at CiscoLive, a number of folks have asked me if the announcement of our strategy changes our view of the ONF or the role of OpenFlow—the short answer is, simply, no.
We continue to strongly support ONF and its efforts related to SDN and our support has and will continue to been demonstrated in tangible ways. One of the elements of the Cisco ONE announcement is onePK, which is an enabling technology and one of the things it has enabled is the development of our OpenFlow agents. Similarly, we have introducing controllers and working with our customers to develop the technology.
What seems to surprise a lot of folks is that our contributions to ONF go beyond our own internal development efforts:
Technology Advisory Group - Chartered to provide high-level guidance on any technical issues faced by the ONF Board in which feedback is requested.
- Chaired by David Ward
Hybrid Working Group - Document the requirements for a hybrid programmable forwarding plane (HPFP).
- Chaired by Jan Medved
- Hybrid Use-cases document: Co-author: Bhushan Kanekar
- Hybrid Switch Architecture -- Integrated: Co-author Bhushan Kanekar
- Hybrid Switch Architecture -- Ships in the night: Co-author Dave Meyer
- Terminology document: Co-authors: Dave Meyer, Bhushan Kanekar
Beyond these two working groups, the Cisco folks, including Jan Medved, David Meyer, Josh Littlefield, Andrew Thurber, Alex Clemm, Mark Szczesniak and Bhushan Kanekar have been active in other workgroups including the Configuration & Management Working Group and the Extensibility Working Group.
Beyond these efforts, David Meyer has been a rock star across the board including contributions to the “OF futures” discussions and recently received an award from the ONF for his contributions.
To net things out, Cisco expects to be a pacesetter with regards to network programmability and SDN and our efforts with ONF will continue to be part of that strategy.
In the wake of our Open Network Environment (Cisco ONE) announcements, we are continuing our series on software defined networking (SDN) use cases, this time focusing on the primary use case for OpenFlow and universities, campus network slicing. If interested, a more detailed solution brief on this scenario and the Cisco SDN OpenFlow controller can be found here. And check out our demo video below.
University campus networks offer an increasingly wide array of networking services to one of the broadest user bases of any “enterprise.” Some universities have medical or high-security facilities and must maintain regulatory compliance accordingly. Student networking services vary depending on whether they are on or off campus, and in almost all cases students and faculty bring their own devices. Administration offices must also be able to manage the day-to-day activities of the university. Often event management must include the rapid provisioning of point-of-sale terminal support and back-end payment reconciliation. And faculty must have both data and video access within the university campus, across campuses, and further out to other universities.
As a result, the ability to partition networks (called “slicing”) based on SDN has risen in popularity. Although slicing is being performed today on isolated networks, the need to perform it on production networks is now becoming a priority. Cisco controllers and agents, as part of the Cisco Open Network Environment for network programmability, are aimed at addressing this need.
Much of the early research and collaboration between universities on OpenFlow and SDN has been driven by the adoption of National Science Foundation (NSF) projects such as GENI, an open, collaborative research environment to explore networking at scale.
One of the basic premises of SDN is that the abstraction of control plane management, out of each network device and into a centralized “controller,” can create high business agility through automation with relatively lower OpEx and low risk. SDN is a natural fit for the class of requests universities need to service.
One of the primary components to the emergence of SDN on campuses has been the ability to create logically isolated networks and allow them to be partitioned and programmed using slicing. In SDN, this is facilitated with an abstraction layer in the network device called a flowvisor. Today, many universities use flowvisors within their isolated networks in conjunction with SDN controllers to manage their slicing requirements. In many cases these slicing activities are still performed off the campus backbone, as the software used to implement both the operating systems and slicing functions does not provide the policy management consistency required for production network applications.
After our Open Network Environment (Cisco ONE) announcement at Cisco live!, where we unveiled our strategy for network programmability, Jim Duffy at NetworkWorld had a very interesting article that asks a key question, “What are the killer apps for software defined networks?” While SDN technology is very exciting and holds a great deal of promise, the answer to that question will ultimately determine how quickly it is adopted and by who. The consensus is that network virtualization or virtual network overlays are one of the early killer apps that software defined networks can certainly enable (when coupled with other technologies), which is exactly why Cisco made virtual overlays one of the three solution pillars of its ONE announcement. As I mentioned in my TechwiseTV video on virtual overlays, the primary use case for SDN/OpenFlow research in universities is also campus network slicing or creating virtual network partitions for test and production environments, e.g., to share a physical network. As noted in Duffy’s article, virtual overlays can be done with or without OpenFlow.
In the aftermath of a major launch, after reading the press and analyst coverage of the news, I always ask what we could have made clearer, what could have been highlighted better, or how could we have made the complexity of some of the details easier to understand. One such point that probably could have been clarified is just how “open” the Open Network Environment (what’s in a name anyway?). Specifically, regarding our Nexus 1000V virtual overlay framework, there were some comments and questions about how open and interoperable this overlay framework was, especially compared to other vendors touting programmable overlays. One financial analyst firm even stated that our overlay networks had some great advantages, but only worked with Cisco switches. Read More »
The onePK announcement Ric describes in the previous blog entry is game changing. It also intersects a trend which has gone fairly unnoticed in the networking standards areas. The importance of new standards is declining relative to advances in software and hardware. Read More »