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OpenFlow: Actually on the Ascent

Aug 31, 2015

Dan Pitt discusses the rise of OpenFlow seen at this year’s Open Networking Summit. 

OpenFlow adoption is making great progress, and few times has it been as clear as at this year’s Open Networking Summit. In my recent contributed article for Light Reading, I discuss OpenFlow adoption and the companies that have embraced it during the Summit. Below is an excerpt from that piece, and the entire article can be found here.

I've been hearing it and you probably have been, too: people questioning the future of the OpenFlow protocol or even proclaiming (perhaps wishfully so) its demise.

I would like to provide evidence to the contrary. While some industry players continue to argue over alternatives to OpenFlow, a wide range of network operators -- including major service providers, Internet companies, and enterprises -- currently benefit from the control and vendor independence this open protocol provides. I've thought for some time that the industry needs to shift its attention from the southbound side (of the control plane) to the northbound (application) side, where SDN touches real business value, and now it is.

OpenFlow is the standard southbound protocol designed for SDN and it's vendor neutral. Nothing else is. It's now appearing in chipsets, white-box switches and branded switches, in addition to the hypervisor switches where it's been pervasive. With forwarding and control separate, OpenFlow-based switches offer amazing price-performance, while separate control software allows operators to tailor the network's behavior to their business priorities. This, of course, is the goal of SDN.

I can talk all day long about vendors implementing OpenFlow, but hearing from organizations that are buying and using it more strongly counters the contention that it's going away. At the Open Networking Summit (ONS) in June, four of them -- Alibaba Group, Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and the US National Security Agency (NSA) -- revealed their reliance on OpenFlow; further evidence appeared at the OpenDaylight Summit in July.

For the most part, the point was not, "Hey, we're using OpenFlow!" Rather, it was, "Look at this amazing network we're building with SDN, and oh, by the way, how we do it is with OpenFlow" (and other things too, of course).

To learn more about what these organizations are doing with OpenFlow, read “OpenFlow: Actually on the Ascent.”

- Dan Pitt, Executive Director

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