< back to overview

ONF Expands Scope; Drives Technical Work Forward

Foundation Introduces New Initiatives to Accelerate Advanced Use and Deployment of Software-Defined Networking

Palo Alto, Calif., August 10, 2012 - The Open Networking Foundation (ONF), a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting Software-Defined Networking (SDN), continues to accelerate the standards, deployment and advanced use of SDN.

The Foundation is driving technical work forward through the addition of four new initiatives focusing on new network orchestration interfaces, OpenFlow® beyond Ethernet connections for optical networks, northbound APIs for management and billing, and future forwarding plane models. The efforts include Architecture and Framework, Northbound API, Forwarding Abstractions, and New Transport. With these efforts, ONF is accelerating and enabling advanced use of SDN, and supporting the creation of better tools to build and program software defined networks.

"ONF is taking on myriad opportunities inherent to the growth of the SDN marketplace," said Scott Shenker, member of the ONF Board of Directors and Professor of Computer Science at UC Berkeley. "With these efforts in the Foundation, member companies will be able to further refine SDN technologies and their capabilities to continue driving commercialization of the standard. Recognizing the increasingly diverse scenarios where OpenFlow-based SDN can add value for customers, ONF stays at the forefront of network innovation. Like the OpenFlow® protocol itself, these efforts are evidence that ONF – designed to be agile – is evolving with the market and technology to ensure that user demands are met rapidly and efficiently."

The new efforts will focus on applications and behaviors of the technology areas of SDN beyond the OpenFlow® protocol. This allows the Foundation to build and amplify related technologies that bring direct customer value, including benefits to security, network programmability, lowered costs, flexibility, energy management, and more. With the new efforts, ONF is accelerating the transition from legacy architectures to SDN and promoting the development of value-added software components in the SDN ecosystem. The specific focus of these efforts will be:

  • Architecture and Framework: ONF's Architecture and Framework initiative is accelerating the deployment of SDN, by defining the framework and architecture that underpins SDN networks. This new effort will look at upper layer orchestration of the network in order to expose the various interfaces and elements of SDN, how they relate to each other and legacy networking, and what ends they need to serve in a wide-variety of networks. It will allow the industry to officially develop network solution elements, such as APIs, data models, and constructs that work well together, thus fostering greater automation of the network and reducing the manual tasks that are so costly and error prone today. End users of SDN will be able to create, acquire and interface with these various elements to better reflect unique user needs so new innovations can be quickly incorporated. Network operators will see a more competitive marketplace for a new breed of products and services.
  • New Transport: ONF New Transport accelerates the deployment of OpenFlow® and SDN in carrier networks, optical networks, and wireless networks by defining the requirements and use cases necessary to deploy SDN. The initiative will investigate how to use OpenFlow® and switches not just between Ethernet ports, but between fibers, wavelengths, wireless channels and circuits. Physical transports will benefit from network virtualization and the use of OpenFlow® in a variety of physical infrastructures beyond the data center in carrier, optical, and wireless networks. By applying OpenFlow® to a wide variety of transport technologies, network operators and users gain economies of scale and more system-wide consistency in applying policy and security across a broader reach.
  • Northbound API: The Northbound API initiative will help the industry move from a patchwork of different APIs to a standard method of interfacing between OpenFlow® and the control plane. The effort will heighten the understanding and define what software layers should be above and below OpenFlow® within the networking infrastructure, and in particular how the capabilities of the network match the requirements of the applications. Creators of network-control applications are eager to write for the northbound edge of an OpenFlow® controller. Therefore the initiative will survey and catalog the APIs that exist, define how to characterize them, outline what they are intended to be used for, and how they interact with the network. Cataloging and characterizing the APIs will offer a clear understanding of what functions the market views as important and the common thread for application scenarios. This work will aid software developers to better program and virtualize the network, and enable network operators to translate network capabilities into lucrative services.
  • Forwarding Abstractions: The Forwarding Abstractions effort will focus on the development of next generation forwarding plane models, with a particular interest in how to exploit and differentiate the capabilities of OpenFlow® based hardware switches. One of the key benefits of SDN is the ability to take advantage of merchant silicon to drive better price and performance in the data center. By marrying OpenFlow® technology with new innovations in merchant silicon, this effort within the Foundation will drive the next generation of OpenFlow-enabled network switches that delivery superior price and performance, in addition to throughput for large scale data center, enterprise, and carrier transport implementations. The initiative will foster a competitive market place for hardware so that high performance will meet the needs of demanding customers and network operators (including enterprises) will reap the benefits of OpenFlow® in the core, not just the edge.

"Together these efforts will allow for OpenFlow® and SDN to be integrated by a wide variety of customers and into many more networking scenarios," said Dan Pitt, executive director of the Open Networking Foundation. "With many active member companies and initiatives working on technical specifications, the Foundation is not only looking at the big picture of SDN, but we are honing in on the fine points to drive commercialization and use of the technology, and accelerating the deployment of SDN in a wide-range of networking infrastructures."

About ONF
Launched in 2011 by Deutsche Telekom, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Verizon, and Yahoo!, the Open Networking Foundation (ONF) is a growing nonprofit organization with more than 70 members whose mission is to promote the commercialization and use of SDN and OpenFlow, and collaboratively bring to market standards and solutions. ONF will accelerate the delivery and use of SDN and OpenFlow® technologies and standards while fostering a vibrant market of products, services, applications, customers, and users. For further details visit the ONF website at: https://onfstaging1.opennetworking.org.