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Open Networking Foundation Introduces Northbound Interface Working Group

ONF to Aid Application Developers Seeking Open APIs for Code Development

PALO ALTO, Calif., October 16, 2013 – The Open Networking Foundation (ONF), a non-profit organization dedicated to accelerating the adoption of open Software-Defined Networking (SDN), today announced the creation of the Northbound Interface (NBI) Working Group. This new Working Group will develop information models for NBIs, prototyping and gaining end-user feedback on selected examples with real code. The goal is to reduce end-user confusion on the Northbound Interface and to help the application developers actively seeking an open Application Programming Interface (API) to develop code against.

“The proliferation of approaches to NBIs is impeding the progress of SDN,” said Dan Pitt, executive director of the Open Networking Foundation. “As part of our role in helping the industry develop and maintain approaches to open SDN, we are taking the lead in helping end users better understand what NBIs serve what needs. The primary driver for our work in this area is the creation of one or a small number of stable, open interfaces that will support rapid adoption of SDN.”

ONF began its work with the Northbound Interface in 2012 as part of the Architecture and Framework Working Group’s study of existing SDN NBI use cases and controller Northbound Interfaces. Since that time, the number of approaches to the Northbound Interface has mushroomed to more than 20. While valuable market education can be taken from each of these approaches, the volume has created a confusion of programmatic interfaces that network service vendors, orchestration systems, and application developers must write to in order to serve diverse SDN use cases.

“We continue to believe that software standards should be created by a committee only when absolutely necessary,” continued Pitt. “One of the purposes of the Working Group is to determine if an NBI standard from a committee is needed by the market. Over the last two years, we have said that more experience was needed with SDN controllers and applications before anyone could judge the qualities of a ‘good’ NBI. Our Working Group will build on the considerable body of experience gained since then and on the demand from application developers for assistance in understanding this critical component of a complete SDN solution.”

The new Working Group, chartered this month, has launched with strong support from ONF Member Companies:

“HP is a founding member of ONF and has been an active contributor to the standardization of OpenFlow, now available on 50 HP switches and well over 25 million installed ports,” said Dave Larson, CTO and vice president of Advance Technology group, Networking, HP. “We are 100 percent behind ONF's creation of the Northbound Interface Working Group; the potential for a multi-vendor SDN API recommendation resulting from this group will provide developers with the opportunity to create portable applications that simplify and automate networks in ways we haven't yet imagined.”

“Huawei applauds ONF’s decision on Northbound Interfaces, which we consider an important milestone to help further the progression of open SDN,” said Justin Dustzadeh, CTO and vice president Technology Strategy, Networks, Huawei. “We have been an active participant and will continue to work with the SDN community to foster multi-vendor interoperability between SDN controller products and to help define the key APIs that address real-world SDN use cases for network operators.”

“SDN, by definition, empowers networks to be programmed by a broad ecosystem of software applications. The development of open industry Northbound Interfaces will play a key role in enabling the application ecosystem to accelerate, innovate and scale on an even broader level,” said Uri Elzur, Intel’s director of SDN Architecture at the Communication and Storage Infrastructure Group. “Intel welcomes the opportunity to collaborate with the members of ONF to make this possible.”

“Industry-wide accepted Northbound Interfaces will greatly benefit customers and the community at large, enabling the OpenFlow® SDN ecosystem to grow at a much faster rate,” according to Jiro Kitakaze, senior manager, System Platform Business Unit, NEC Corporation. “Companies like NEC and our partners will be able to invest resources in new business services and apps, rather than trying to make each application fit multiple frameworks and architectures. This will bring an exciting new level of innovation to IT customers around the world.”

“Establishing higher-level abstractions and APIs for services and applications is a perfect complement to the solid work that the ONF has already accomplished via its OpenFlow® efforts,” said Mat Matthews, Plexxi co-founder and vice president of product management. “Forming the Northbound Interface Working Group should help steer our industry towards open, vendor-agnostic means of application-facing controller interaction.”

“Being a part of the NBI core founding team we are elated that this initiative was a successful one,” says Avi Chesla, chief technology officer, Radware. “We still have some work ahead of us, but the goals that this working group has established will help define various SDN Controller Northbound API Interfaces, in order to significantly increase the speed in which new SDN applications are developed. Collectively, we will be able to accelerate innovation in order to quickly adapt the customer’s needs from their networks.”

A Chairperson for the NBI Working Group will be appointed by the Board in November, after applications are received from Member Company candidates. Initial information modeling will be completed in 2014.

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 100 members whose mission is to accelerate the adoption of open SDN. ONF promotes open 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.