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Reflections. Predictions.

Dec 16, 2013

Reflecting on ONF’s progress in 2013 and making SDN predictions for the New Year.

2013 was a fantastic year for ONF as well as the Software-Defined Networking (SDN) movement as a whole. We surpassed 100 member companies (by a lot), spanning some of the world’s most influential network operators, service providers, equipment manufacturers, end users, and more. We issued six updates to the OpenFlow® specification and updated OF-Config. We chartered four awesome Working Groups and gave birth to three highly active discussion groups. We launched our OpenFlow® Conformance Testing Program, sanctioned four conformance-testing laboratories, and celebrated the first company (NEC) and testing center (InCNTRE) to complete conformance testing. We also held a competition to create the best interoperable, open-source implementation of the latest OpenFlow® standard, and the winner of the $50,000 grand prize will be announced in the New Year. We established new industry relationships, held two energetic Member Workday events, hosted two PlugFests, and participated in around 50 industry events worldwide. (And you wouldn’t believe the number of tweets.) We (meaning our members) have been very busy throughout 2013 in our collective efforts to accelerate the adoption of open SDN.

We have great plans in place for 2014 as well, and while 2013 will be difficult to top, we’re up for the challenge. With the New Year in mind, I’ve put together some SDN predictions to watch for in 2014:

  • By the end of 2014, all switches will have OpenFlow® client support. SDN demand is high, and it’s putting pressure on networking vendors to accelerate support for OpenFlow. It will soon cost more not to have an OpenFlow® client in a switch than to have one (we’re talking opportunity cost here), and we expect that it will become a standard feature.
  • Interoperability will actually happen. Numerous SDN controllers and OpenFlow-enabled switches and routers have already come to market. As the OpenFlow® substrate continues to build out, we expect 2014 to be focused on interoperability.
  • Telcos will help drive SDN uptake. Telco service providers helped Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) and SDN become hot (and synergistic) issues in 2013, and they will continue to drive purchasing in the SDN market in 2014. AT&T’s Domain 2.0 announcement is a striking example of where this community is headed.
  • Expect a changing vendor landscape. AT&T’s Domain 2.0 announcement specifically called for SDN support, including demands for the separation of hardware and software. They indicated that new SDN vendors will be key to the delivery of separate, interoperable hardware and software components. ONF will continue helping build an ecosystem to encourage both innovation by the incumbents and the formation of new companies focused on network transformation.
  • SDN applications will emerge. In 2014, we should expect to see increased attention to the software and services that the OpenFlow® substrate supports. As a result, customers will begin seeing applications (from orchestration to L4-7 to NFV to operational tools) from multiple vendors, and both open and proprietary software to meet the demand for these applications.
  • Northbound APIs will accelerate app development. While ONF has been reluctant to push for de jure standard APIs, we’ve seen demand from developers of application, orchestration, and management software for assistance in understanding northbound APIs as a critical component of a complete SDN solution – and for such APIs to be open. Verily we formed a Northbound Interfaces (NBI) Working Group to identify use cases and information models in 2014 and to validate its findings with real code.
  • Security will be a killer app for SDN. With its flow-analysis and control-plane capabilities, SDN is perhaps the most effective tool to assure network security that has come along in a decade. In contrast to predefined and static network-security policies, SDN allows for truly self-defending networks based on dynamic flow management. Next year and beyond, ONF will demonstrate the security of OpenFlow® and its value as a tool to enhance network security.
  • OpenStack support will become ubiquitous. We predict that in 2014 every switch vendor will either demonstrate or claim to have an OpenStack plug-in. A cloud operating system designed to control pools of compute, storage, and networking resources throughout a data center, OpenStack is of particular interest to cloud-service companies, who are at the cutting edge of business-service virtualization. ONF is committed to making the intersection of OpenStack with SDN as rich, functional, and open as possible in its access to the OpenFlow® substrate.

I would like to thank each of our member companies – and individuals – for their hard work this year in advancing SDN, and I look forward to what we will accomplish in 2014. See you again in the New Year!

- Dan Pitt, Executive Director

For more information about these predictions, read my two contributed columns for InformationWeek here and here.

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Dan Pitt