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The End Users Gain Momentum

Dec 9, 2013
Marc Cohn
Marc Cohn About the author

ONF MEC Chair Marc Cohn recaps ONUG Fall 2013, and what's next for ONF and this user group.

As Software-Defined Networking (SDN) rapidly evolves across the entire networking and telecommunications industries, one constant remains. Not before in recent memory have end users been so empowered by an architecture or technology shift. It was the researchers at Stanford, Berkeley, and other institutions who sought a significantly more flexible and programmable networking architecture to enable their research pursuits that led to OpenFlow® and the formation of the Open Networking Foundation (ONF) in 2011. The following year, many of the world’s largest carriers banded together, with unprecedented collaboration, to drive the Network Functions Virtualisation initiative. And earlier this year, large enterprises seeking to have a greater influence on the future of SDN and open networking propelled the Open Networking User Group (ONUG).

On a beautiful autumn day in New York City, over 250 IT business leaders congregated in midtown at JPMorgan Chase’s impressive facility to participate in the ONUG Fall 2013 Conference. The conference offered a forum where end users exchanged ideas and benefitted from early innovators’ experiences with SDN, capitalizing on the growing momentum for open networking. Five ONUG industry and media partners, including ONF, also participated.

The ONUG Board consists of a who’s who of the financial services industry, including representatives from:

  • Bank of America
  • Citigroup
  • Fidelity Investments
  • JPMorgan Chase
  • UBS.

In his opening address, Nick Lippis, chairman of the ONUG Board and co-founder, observed that since the initial ONUG meeting held in February of 2013:

  • There has been a major expansion in the definition of open networking
  • DevOps is increasingly important, necessitating a broadening of software ecosystems to support open networking
  • The time is now to think differently; we have not seen a shift this significant in over two decades.

Lippis also shared select results from his survey of the ONUG community, which indicated that over 50% of those surveyed are “beyond reviewing,” and intend to conduct pilots within a year.

A diverse set of speakers offered insights and unique perspectives on their experiences with open networking, representing the Board of Directors, large content providers, SDN researchers, academia, and analysts. Not surprisingly, there were a number of common threads in their messages, including:

  • Open networking is at an early stage, and will evolve in unpredictable ways
  • Among the primary benefits sought are speed and agility towards attaining business advantage
  • Like any networking initiative, cost reduction is also key on both the OpEx and CapEx sides of the ledger
  • Another goal is to transform operations through programmability, automation, and intelligence
  • A particularly pervasive theme frequently cited was vendor-independence, though it did not imply multi-vendor interoperability, which is perceived as an ambitious goal at this point
  • While not necessarily a short-term goal, white box and bare-metal switches emerged as another topic of interest; at the ONUG Academy held on Oct 29 (the day preceding the ONUG Conference), the most popular session addressed white box implications
  • Open source and standards will also play a major role, but are perceived to be immature at this early stage; interest was expressed in the Open Compute project, which expanded its charter to including networking earlier this year.

“ONUG is a catalyst for change, and provides a platform and collective voice for IT executives to take an active role ensuring a broad range of available solutions, for data centers and service providers,” commented ONUG Chairman Lippis.

The conference culminated in an interactive exercise to identify and prioritize a set of use cases that ONUG can rally around. Earlier in the month the ONUG Board of Directors met to propose and discuss baseline use cases as a starting point. Use cases on the list will likely emerge in RFx anticipated to be issued in 2014. The top three use cases include:

  • Integrated Layer 4-7 Network Services: Both ONF and the ETSI NFV ISG are investigating how SDN can support higher-layer services in the communications architecture
  • Virtual Network Overlays such as VXLAN, NVGRE, etc. , primarily targeted to the virtualized data center
  • Branch Software-Defined Wide Area Networks (SD-WANs): Virtualizing and optimizing the most expensive bandwidth.

The complete list of use cases the ONUG considered includes:

  • Integrate Layer 4-7 network services to eliminate appliances
  • Take an open approach to virtual networks/overlays
  • Leverage branch Wide Area Software-Defined Networks (WA-SDN) to reduce appliance clutter and extract greater value from WAN services
  • Integrated traffic monitoring and network visibility
  • Automate network segmentation to reduce network operations from laborious manual configuration
  • Expose Linux within networking gear to facilitate automation
  • Deploy white box switches in access closets for automated configuration and change management
  • Establish abstract policy for applications and expose IT infrastructure dependencies.

Next on the agenda for ONUG is to continue to define the use cases, and exploit the critical mass and collective knowledge of the forum. ONF is in discussions with ONUG about how we can channel ONUG feedback to guide ONF activities. After all, ONF is dedicated to meeting user needs.

For additional information:
Open Networking Foundation
Open Networking User Group

- Marc Cohn

Marc Cohn is a Senior Director for Ciena’s Market Development organization, focused on Ciena’s SDN strategy. He also serves as the Chair of the Market Education Committee for the Open Networking Foundation, and is a Delegate in the ETSI NFV ISG. Marc is also the liaison between ONF and ONUG.

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Marc Cohn