Extreme Ships Network OS With Greater SDN Support

The company's ExtremeXOS comes with support for OpenFlow, OpenStack Quantum and SDN-based products from Big Switch Networks.

Extreme Networks officials are pushing the company's software-defined networking efforts in the latest version of its ExtremeXOS network operating system, which they said is now shipping.

The company's ExtremeXOS v15.3 platform not only supports the SDN product portfolio released late last year by Big Switch Networks—support that Extreme officials said in November was coming—but also applications from NEC as well as the OpenFlow protocol and OpenStack Quantum, both key SDN initiatives.

At the same time, the enhanced operating system now comes with support for audio-video bridging (AVB), as well as enhancements to the company's XNV (ExtremeXOS Network Virtualization) virtual LANs. The overall result is a more SDN-friendly network operating system, according to David Ginsburg, chief marketing officer for Extreme.

"As we bring new OpenFlow and OpenStack features into the market with ExtremeXOS 15.3, customers are equipped to take advantage of the promise of software advancements that extend capabilities and further simplify their networks," Ginsburg said in a Feb. 14 statement.

Software-defined networks are designed to take much of the network intelligence found in switches and routers and put it into software-based controllers, creating networks that are more flexible, dynamic and easier to program, as well as less complex and less costly. Established vendors like Cisco Systems, Juniper Networks and Hewlett-Packard are pushing their own SDN efforts, and a host of startups—including Big Switch, Plexxi and Embrane—are offering their own solutions. There also has been some consolidation in the market, led by VMware's acquisition last year of Nicira for $1.26 billion.

IDC analysts expect rapid growth in the market in the next few years, with revenue jumping from $360 million this year to $3.7 billion by 2017.

OpenFlow is a key early protocol for SDN—Extreme began putting support for OpenFlow in its switches in June 2012—and OpenStack Quantum is an OpenStack project aimed at enabling networking as a service capabilities in computing environments. Extreme is shipping an OpenStack Quantum plug-in that offers rich APIs for ExtremeXOS that offers such networking tasks as security, load balancing and data center interconnect infrastructure as services.

SDNs not only will make networks easier to program and manage, but they also will open them up to SDN-focused applications from outside developers, according to Jason Lackey, senior marketing manager at Extreme. In a Feb. 14 post on the company blog, Lackey compared the transition to SDN with the move from mainframes to x86-based servers, or feature phones to the rise of smartphones and accompanying app stores. Where once closed environments were the norm, more open ones have taken their place.

"With widespread acceptance of the idea that there is value in having centralized, standardized command and control separate from the switches (and routers) that comprise the network comes the opportunity for developers to add value with SDN applications," he wrote. "In the old world of networking, prior to SDN, if a customer wanted some sort of functionality that did not exist in the switch, the customer would talk to the vendor and request a feature be added. The feature may or may not be added, but even if it was something the vendor wanted to do, it would usually take 12-18 months before that feature or capability would ship—if it ever shipped. The new world of networking, networking in the SDN era, will start to look a lot more like the world of Macs and PCs or the world of smartphones than the world of mainframes."

The new version of ExtremeXOS supports Big Switch SDN applications that touch on traffic monitoring and the provisioning of physical networks into multiple logical networks in virtualized data center networks.

Other SDN features in ExtremeXOS 15.3 include the ability to migrate from legacy networks to OpenFlow-enabled networks, multi-tenant isolation in networks with VLANs and VMANs and integration with vSwitch, and a common switch platform that offers programmability using OpenFlow and OpenStack. OpenFlow in the operating system can be enabled and disabled via the VLAN.