Open Networking Foundation Formed to Speed Network Innovation

The first task of ONF will be to adopt and then lead the ongoing development of the OpenFlow standard.

Six companies that own and operate some of the largest networks in the world-Deutsche Telekom, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Verizon and Yahoo-announced the formation of the Open Networking Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting a new approach to networking, called software-defined networking.

Joining these six founding companies in creating ONF are 17 member companies, including equipment vendors, networking and virtualization software suppliers and chip technology providers.

The first task of ONF will be to adopt and then lead the ongoing development of the OpenFlow standard and encourage its adoption by freely licensing it to all member companies. ONF will then begin the process of defining global-management interfaces. While networking technologies have also evolved in this time, the ONF said it believes that more rapid innovation is needed.

Software-defined networking, or SDN, fulfills this need by enabling innovation in all kinds of networks-including in data centers, wide-area telecommunication networks, wireless networks, and enterprises and homes-through relatively simple software changes, a statement from the organization explained. "SDN thus gives owners and operators of networks better control over their networks, allowing them to optimize network behavior to best serve their and their customers' needs. For instance, in data centers, SDN can be used to reduce energy use by allowing some routers to be powered down during off-peak periods," the statement said.

The SDN approach arose out of a six-year research collaboration between Stanford University and the University of California at Berkeley. Essential to SDN are two basic components: a software interface (called OpenFlow) for controlling how packets are forwarded through network switches, and a set of global-management interfaces upon which more advanced management tools can be built.

"Industry-wide open application-programming-interface efforts like ONF are promising for the next generation of network-based offerings," said Bruno Orth, senior vice president of network strategy and architecture at Deutsche Telekom. "SDN principles advance Deutsche Telekom's vision of -connected life and work' and are expected to accelerate innovation for a seamless customer experience."

The initial members (including founding companies) of ONF are Broadcom, Brocade, Ciena, Cisco, Citrix, Dell, Deutsche Telekom, Ericsson, Facebook, Force10, Google, HP, IBM, Juniper Networks, Marvell, Microsoft, NEC, Netgear, NTT, Riverbed Technology, Verizon, VMware and Yahoo. A veteran of the networking industry and networking standards bodies, Dan Pitt will serve as executive director of the ONF starting April 1, 2011.

"With broad industry support from technology leaders and networking experts, the ONF brings new opportunities and flexibility to the future of networking," added Jonathan Heiliger, ONF founding board member and vice president of technical operations at Facebook. "We're actively encouraging new members to join us in this endeavor."