Enterprise Networking: How Cisco, HP, Juniper, Others Are Tackling SDN, OpenFlow

By Jeffrey Burt  |  Posted 2012-04-27 Print this article Print
Cisco Systems

Cisco Systems

In 2011, Cisco officials said the company will offer OpenFlow support on its Nexus switches, and the networking giant is "spinning in" a new company—Insieme—that will be started by Cisco engineers and funded by Cisco, with Cisco holding the option of buying it if it's successful. Insieme's job is to develop products for SDNs, which Cisco officials have said is an important evolution in networks but encompasses more than simply OpenFlow and the drive to decouple the data and control planes—the switches and routers.
With virtualization and cloud computing, hyperscale computing and massive data centers, networks are the foundations of the evolving data centers. With the ever-growing number of switches, routers and other devices, these modern data centers are also becoming expensive to buy and operate, complex, inflexible and, according to some, a barrier to innovation. Proponents of the growing movement of software-defined networking, or SDN, are hoping to change all that. Over the past year-plus, SDN and its enabling protocol—OpenFlow—have gained steam and garnered a lot of attention in the industry, and vendors big and small are looking for ways they can incorporate them into their road maps over the next few years. SDN has a number of definitions, depending on who's doing the talking, though many equate it with network virtualization, and most agree that the fundamental attribute is the separation of the data and control planes, and using the vendor-agnostic OpenFlow interface between those two planes. Essentially, the idea is to take many of the networking tasks that are now performed on expensive pieces of hardware and do them instead in software. This moves the intelligence in the network—such as directing traffic to minimizing latency to security—from switches and routers to a software-based controller. Driving the effort is the Open Networking Foundation, which counts as many as 70 companies as members. The foundation not only includes top networking companies, but major Web players, such as Google, Facebook and Yahoo, communications giants like Comcast, Verizon and Deustche Telekom, and chip makers , including Intel and Texas Instruments. OpenFlow has been in development since 2007, but here's how some of the key networking players, big and small, are approaching SDN today.

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