Extreme Networks Puts OpenFlow Into Ethernet Switches

As part of its effort to broaden its SDN capabilities, Extreme also is supporting OpenStack and offering a developer portal.

Extreme Networks is joining Cisco Systems, Juniper Networks and other established networking vendors in embracing the OpenFlow protocol as a key part of their larger software-defined networking strategies.

The company will provide OpenFlow support throughout its portfolio of ExtremeOS-based Ethernet switches. At the same time, the company will support OpenFlow controllers from other vendors, including NEC and BigSwitch Networks, and will offer a plug-in for the open-source cloud solution OpenStack to manage switches using the OpenStack Quantum APIs. In addition, Extreme is creating a Web portal called xKIT to encourage application development for software-defined networks, or SDNs.

The new offerings, announced June 27, are aimed at expanding Extreme€™s lineup for SDN, an approach to networking that is growing in popularity due to the promise of greater flexibility, improved efficiency and lower costs. Networks have become key bottlenecks in the data center, and SDN is seen as a solution by moving the intelligence in the networks€”such as directing traffic and minimizing latency to security€”from expensive switches and routers to software-based controllers.

SDN, which has been promoted by an industry consortium called the Open Network Foundation, has caught the attention of major Web companies like Google and Facebook, which are constantly looking to make their massive data centers more efficient, as well as networking vendors€”established players such as Cisco, Juniper and Extreme as well as SDN startups like Nicira and BigSwitch.

While Extreme is embracing SDN and OpenFlow, the concept of centralizing intelligence in the network is not new, according to Shehzad Merchant, vice president of technology strategy. The vendor has been moving in that direction for several years, including through its ExtremeOS network operating system, which is the software foundation for all of its products.

What Extreme is doing with OpenFlow is an extension of its efforts, Merchant told eWEEK.

€œThe solutions we€™re bringing are very relevant and are solving customer problems,€ he said.

What€™s driving the demand for SDN now are mobility, cloud computing and the consumerization of IT, according to Merchant. For the vendor, ExtremeOS is a key differentiator, offering APIs, software development kits and applications such as XNV, for centralizing network intelligence, network abstraction and third-party application development.

OpenFlow broadens such capabilities in the Extreme portfolio, and businesses can continue leveraging ExtremeOS, even as they bring OpenFlow into the network environment.

€œNo one€™s going to flip a switch and go to OpenFlow overnight,€ he said. €œIt€™s going to take time.€

Extreme's bringing OpenFlow into its line of Ethernet switches will enable businesses creating OpenFlow-based networking infrastructures with such controllers as those from NEC and BigSwitch to use Extreme technology in those environments.

Extreme officials said the OpenFlow capabilities will be available as a technology release in July. Through the xKIT, the company will make several SDN applications€”such as its VM Lifecycle Management software€”available. xKIT will be live in July.

Extreme€™s announcement comes two weeks after Cisco officials gave their SDN ambitions a clearer focus, introducing its Open Network Environment Platform Kit (onePK) that will enable developers to create software to enable networking hardware to run more efficiently.

Established switch and router vendors like Cisco and Juniper are looking for ways to adapt to the growing SDN trend while trying to protect their profitable networking hardware businesses. One of the promises of SDN is driving down the cost of hardware by moving the intelligence to centralized controllers. Switches and routers are still needed, but without the intelligence in them, they may cost less. Both Cisco and Juniper are supporting OpenFlow.

Cisco also is helping create a €œspin in€ company called Insieme, which will be run by Cisco engineers and will develop technologies for SDNs. Cisco invested $100 million to get the company started; if the products are successful, Cisco has the option of buying the company for $750 million.