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Report from the PlugFest

Oct 25, 2012
Marc Cohn
Marc Cohn About the author

Indianapolis, October 12, 2012

Industry pundits, press, and analysts pride themselves on forward-looking prognostications on technology trends, which evolve over time. Predicting the fate of protocols is particularly challenging because of the increasingly complex definitions, overlap with alternative solutions, and dizzying array of options.

What better way to gauge the progress of OpenFlow® then to assemble a cadre of early innovators to collaborate on a common goal of refining the standard? In all, nineteen ONF member organizations converged on the Indiana University’s InCNTRE SDN Lab to participate in the ONF’s second PlugFest.

Modeled after the initial event held last March at the Ixia iSimCity lab in Santa Clara, CA, the second ONF PlugFest demonstrated significant progress on a number of fronts. By the numbers:

  • Boosted participation from 12 to 19 companies
  • Doubled the number of Controllers tested (4 to 9); 2 emulated Controllers were tested
  • Tripled the number of test cases completed (4 to 12)
  • Tested the first Virtual Switches (3)
  • Conducted initial tests on OpenFlow® 1.2 (4 implementations)

Matt Davy and his team from the SDN Lab (sponsored by INCTRE, Indiana) served as gracious hosts for the event, which spanned a week on the Indiana University campus in downtown Indianapolis.

Initially, the activity on the floor resembled troubleshooting vs. testing, which was not altogether surprising considering the expanded number of organization participating, and resultant complexity of the test configurations. By mid-week, testing was ramped up across multiple testbeds, including the first OpenFlow® 1.2 Interoperability testing.

The carrier community was well-represented, including leading vendors such as Brocade, Ciena, Huawei, Juniper, and NTT. NTT was the first carrier to participate in the PlugFest, and supported a Data Center Interconnection Use Case, where Layer 3 VPNs interworked across an OpenFlow® Core provided by Ciena’s core switch and Huawei’s router, supervised by NTT’s controller.

ONF PlugFest 174x300 jpgThe NTT-driven Data Center Interconnection Use Case verified interworking between L3 VPNs and an OpenFlow® 1.2 Core, provided by the Ciena 5410 Core Switch (shown above)

In March, the focus of the PlugFest was on establishing basic interoperability. This time around, basic interoperability was expected, and expanded capabilities became a major goal. Virtual Switches from Ericsson, NEC, and Open vSwitch (OVS) were tested at the PlugFest; none were tested at the initial PlugFest in March. The testing community provided three OpenFlow® conformance testing frameworks (Ixia, Spirent, and Luxoft), a vital element for achieving broad-scale interoperability.

Enhanced capabilities, especially multi-pathing, a key benefit of OpenFlow® for bandwidth optimization and high-availability, were also tested for the first time. In addition, we demonstrated OF-Config (1.1), the standard configuration and management protocol for switches. Since vendors are just beginning to implement OF-Config, more extensive testing will be performed at subsequent ONF PlugFests.

Additional details on the PlugFest testing will be released in a white paper and corresponding technical report that will be available in November on the ONF Testing and Interoperability webpage.

Looking ahead, ONF intends to release the OpenFlow® 1.0 Conformance Test suite by the end of the year. An OpenFlow® 1.0 Conformance Test Pilot project is already underway with 3 vendors. The InCNTRE lab just received certification as an OpenFlow® Conformance Test Lab, with others expected. Leveraging the momentum from the conformance test progress, ONF plans to hold the next PlugFest in the spring, with even more extensive test cases and vendor participation.

The proof of the protocol pudding is validating that multiple independent implementations interoperate at multiple levels. With a mantra of ‘participation IS implementation’, the second PlugFest took another necessary step towards validating interoperability, and in turn taking another leap towards OpenFlow® adoption.

-Marc Cohn

Marc Cohn serves as the Chair of the ONF Market Education Committee. He is a Senior Director of Market Development at Ciena. For over 20 years, Marc has driven and promoted successful communications software products for the Data Communications and Telecommunications markets as the industry was transformed by the IP revolution.

Acknowledgement: Many thanks to Michael Haugh, Chair of the Interoperability and Testing Working Group, who also contributed to this blog post.

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Marc Cohn