Is the SDN Network of the Future in Your Data Center Today

Software Defined Networking (SDN) dominates networking industry conversation today. The $1B+ acquisition of Nicira by VMware got everyone’s attention. Big Switch also received good buzz at the launch of its open ecosystem. While it is Wikibon’s advice that enterprise CIOs shouldn’t wait for the market to mature more before trying to jump into an SDN solution, one of the underpinnings of future solutions is available today. OpenFlow (which is only a piece of the SDN story) requires a controller and OpenFlow enabled switches. According to the SDN Central website, the following vendors are currently shipping OpenFlow-enabled switches:

Arista, Brocade, Extreme, HP, IBM, Intune, NEC, Netgear, Pica8

During our coverage of HP Discover, Mike Banic of HP’s networking group mentioned that the company has shipped over 15 million OpenFlow-enabled switch ports. I mentioned this on Twitter and as @beaker said “Holy crap did you ever open a can of SDN worms ;)”. Some jumped to the conclusion that HP or I was making a claim about OpenFlow adoption. Adoption of protocols is often artificially inflated by giving away licenses or counting all ports for a switch when only 1 port uses the technology. The point that I want to make is that if a user wants to try an OpenFlow controller, they will also need to have an OpenFlow-enabled switch. If they already have the proper switch from the vendors above, they are ready to start testing. Today, you can buy a switch that is OpenFlow-enabled, or one that is not. Notable by omission on the list are Cisco and Juniper. Both have made announcements (Cisco’s onePK and Juniper’s JunOS SDK), but neither are selling switches today that support OpenFlow. I would not translate the number of OpenFlow enabled ports into adoption (or tie it specifically to SDN revenue), but it is a foundational component of building the SDN ecosystem. As with other open source projects, more participation and conversation should be good for the ecosystem.

The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed.

Watch the full video below with Mike Banic of HP and Walter Kerner, Vice President of Network Services and IT Security at HBO, discussing the security opportunities of SDN at HP Discover in Frankfurt Germany.


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  • Nicolai

    Junos EX-series switches do support openflow today, active support customers can request access to openflow enabled builds of the latest Junos images. I suppose the situation is similar for Cisco Catalyst/Nexus. Ofcourse, these vendors will not lead the pack but rather follow the innovators in the openflow space, as the whole openflow movement is really not in their interest. They stand to lose a lot of control in the market the have dominated for so long.

  • While most or all major switch vendors may be in private alpha testing of OpenFlow, Abner Germanow from Juniper specifically stated on Twitter “when Openflow is released on the EX, yes.” to my question about support for OpenFlow on an EX2500.

  • stu

    Thanks @twitter-28873233:disqus and @31c2c1fa91398da8ef6d92c5e8054010:disqus . The situation reminds me of the early days of server virtualization a decade ago. While today it is rare that any x86 server can’t support server virtualization, back then there were plenty of boxes that either wouldn’t work or didn’t have the memory to realistically support it. In the networking market there are the early solutions, laggards and draggards (those FUDing or trying to slow down the market). HP does have its struggles in networking, a bright spot is that its commitment to open solutions led it to be an early proponent of OpenFlow. Whether that will translate into greater customer adoption or a loss of control (and margin) remains to be seen.

  • Extreme’s switches do, because our OS, ExtremeXOS is ready to support OpenFLow – its full steam ahead. But remember that OpenFlow is only one dimension of the SDN Picture.