University Lab Sets Up SDN Interoperability Test Consortium

The UNH-IOL provides consortium members with an independent lab that can test SDN applications' and controllers' interoperability with switches without having to buy the equipment themselves.

network virtualization

A networking testing lab at the University of New Hampshire is creating a consortium that will give vendors a place to test the interoperability of their network virtualization controllers and apps with switches and measure how they conform with industry standards and how they perform in benchmark tests.

Starting Aug. 1, the University of New Hampshire-InterOperability Laboratory (UNH-IOL) will open up its new 28,000-square-foot facility on the school's Durham, N.H., campus to members of the Software-Defined Networking Consortium that want a single site in which to test their products. Vendors want to make sure that their SDN controllers and applications can work with particular switches, and the UNH-IOL facility gives them a place to run these tests without having to buy the equipment themselves.

The lab runs a wide range of switches, from such vendors as Cisco Systems, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), Brocade and Juniper Networks, and some of which are based on such SDN protocols as OpenFlow, NetConf and RestConf. The facility also will be able to assess whether an SDN controller adheres to industry standards, the number of connections it can support and its speed. In addition, the lab will be able to run benchmark tests.

Consortium members will be able to access the lab's SDN switch test-bed either directly or remotely, according to UNH-IOL officials.

The network virtualization space has its share of industry consortiums, from the Open Networking Foundation (ONF) to the OpenDaylight Foundation to the Open Project for Network-Functions Virtualization (OPNFV), all aiming to create common platforms that vendors can build upon. The UNH-IOL is bringing testing into the equation.

SDN and NFV offer the promise of more programmable, agile and automated networks that can address the increasing needs for flexibility and scalability brought on by such trends as mobility, analytics, the Internet of things (IoT) and the cloud. The technologies remove the control plane and networking tasks like load balancing and routing from the underlying hardware and put it into software. IDC analysts expect the SDN market to grow to $12.5 billion by 2020.

During a press event to announce the SDN Consortium, Timothy Winters, senior executive for software and IP networks at the UNH-IOL, said data centers increasingly are deploying networks that use technologies from multiple vendors, and that SDN and NFV are only enhancing the need for interoperability testing.

"As networks become more complex, being able to program networks is becoming essential," Winter said, adding that "SDN deployments need to support multi-vendor [environments] to match the real world."

Consortium members will pay an annual fee of $20,000, though the lab will offer the ability for vendors to pay per test. The lab will be able to focus on an array of areas, from NFV and IoT to software-defined WAN (SD-WAN), where organizations are bringing in software-defined technologies as complements to more expensive transport modes like Multiprotocol Switch Labeling (MLPS) and T1 for moving traffic to and from branch and remote locations.

The UNH-IOL was founded in 1988 as a third-party site for independent interoperability and standards conformance testing for the networking industry. The lab already works with a range of organizations, from the OPNFV and IEEE to the ONF. Earlier this year, it moved into its new facilities, which include more than 4,000 square feet of space prewired to support plugfests, and in May hosted the ONF AppFest to test ONF member software against OpenFlow switches and a variety of SDN controllers.

One of the key goals of the lab is to give UNH students hands-on experience in the networking field. The UNH-IOL has more than 120 graduate and undergraduate students working with the lab's staff.