OpenFlow® Conformance FAQs

OpenFlow® Conformance Testing Program

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

General Questions

Q: What is ONF OpenFlow® Conformance?

A: OpenFlow® Conformance asserts that a particular product conforms to the OpenFlow® protocol specification in significant ways that have been outlined and developed by the Open Networking Foundation (ONF).

Q: Why is ONF OpenFlow® Conformance important?

A: OpenFlow® Conformance is the pledge of a manufacturer that the product sold is reflective of all the major attributes and capabilities of the OpenFlow® protocol. While each product is different, and many contain distinguishing, vendor-specific qualities and features worthy of investigation, the pledge of OpenFlow® Conformance is that the manufacturer has independent, 3rd-party verification that a product will behave in a way the conforms to the globally-recognized OpenFlow® protocol specification.

Q: What is the difference between ONF OpenFlow® Conformance and Certification?

A: Many people confuse or conflate “Conformance” and “Certification.” The distinctions are quite profound. “Conformance” means a trusted, independently-verified assertion that validates a product meets pre-established criteria pertaining to a specific version of the OpenFlow® networking protocol specification. A Certificate of Conformance, awarded by ONF for successful testing by a company using an ONF-approved testing lab, is our validation that the product conforms to the OpenFlow® specification.

Where it gets tricky is when people start using the word “certify” or “certification” to describe a test. In most cases, they are talking about the interoperability of a product with other products, and an independent lab “certifying” that “Product A” works with “Product B”, “Product C”, etc. Conformance does not mean interoperability; the relationship is between a product and the OpenFlow® specification, not other products. While it might appear to be splitting things too finely to some, it’s an important distinction to recognize, and quite significant to those who purchase networking equipment.

Q: Do I have to be an ONF member to test for conformance?

A: No. Since ONF’s OpenFlow® protocol specification and its OpenFlow® Conformance Test (currently version 1.0.1) are open and freely-available specifications, any company can use the test (either internally within their own company or by contracting with a testing lab) and assert that “our product passed the test.” While there are additional benefits to a networking company being a member of ONF, and particularly compelling reasons for testing as a participant in ONF’s Conformance Testing Program, it is not mandatory. ONF believes that its standards—including its Conformance test—should be available throughout the world, and hence has structured its Conformance Testing Program to be openly available.

Q: What are the benefits of testing under ONF’s OpenFlow® Conformance Testing Program?

A: For ONF members, developing and testing SDN products becomes easier, more informed, and more rapid. Once they join ONF, we recommend member companies join the Testing & Interoperability Working Group, and learn how leading companies worldwide develop their products, help influence features and attributes of the OpenFlow® protocol that get developed, and participate in the twice-yearly free ONF Plugfests. Product managers and engineers routinely tell us that because of their membership and participation in these ONF member-only activities, they cut weeks and months off their products schedules, help develop new engineering talent, and understand how to develop the features and aspects of their new networking products.

Members also become part of the vanguard organizations leading the development of Software Defined Networking (SDN) and the OpenFlow® protocol. No longer waiting to hear about the specifications, use cases, and new programs to serve the growing SDN ecosystem, ONF member companies have the opportunity to become leaders and influencers that are contributing to the growth of SDN.

Additionally, once product(s) pass the OpenFlow® Conformance test, companies will be able to use the trademarked “OpenFlow® Conformant” logo on product packaging, printed and web collateral, and other materials that show validation. These logos will certainly influence potential customers to differentiate the quality of the product among other competing solutions. IT thought leaders and customers who know SDN also know ONF, and the OpenFlow® protocol. We welcome companies to leverage this growing opportunity for the growth of products and commercialization of SDN.

Q: What version(s) of OpenFlow® are currently being tested?

A: Currently, version 1.0.1, with OpenFlow® 1.3 in development as the next planned release. While many companies are developing products that are conformant to OpenFlow® 1.3 at this time, the ability to validate the key features of OpenFlow® 1.0.1 is an important first step in securing conformance for both ingle products and entire product lines, and the lessons learned in earning Conformance will stand companies in good stead when the OpenFlow® 1.3 Conformance Test is released.


Ordering & Testing Procedure

Q: How do I begin the ONF OpenFlow® Conformance testing process?

A: When your product is ready to test, contact an ONF-accredited independent testing lab. They have the smarts, the experience, and the rigid conformance to ISO specifications for world-class testing lab management that will make your testing experience count. While there are more labs coming online soon, the InCNTRE lab is prepared, experienced, and qualified to work with your organization—they are already working with several companies at this time. To contact InCNTRE, please click here.

A way to illustrate the key elements of the testing process is found below:process

If your organization is not a member of ONF, we recommend joining our movement.. While access to the test is free to anyone, becoming a member in ONF has critical entitlements that will speed your product development process. To inquire about ONF membership, please click here.

We encourage ONF member companies developing products to take advantage of their ONF membership by having their key technical and marketing talent as regular participants in ONF working groups. Participating members will learn valuable information about the OpenFlow® specification, about how OpenFlow® products are already winning market attention and technical respect, and how companies can apply these lessons to their own product set. Additionally, members will be a part of the two major Plugfests that are free to all ONF members. Plugfests (held in a variety of locations) are week-long opportunities to pre-test products in a neutral environment. Plugfests present all of the leading providers of OpenFlow® products to develop interoperability support with other vendors. More than 20 vendors participate in ONF Plugfests, with all the activity and results taking place in an NDA-protected environment. Plugfest participants have told us that they were able to accomplish an equivalent of two months of quality assurance (QA) testing in a about week, complete unique testing that could take multiple months in a QA lab. The breadth of participation also allowed them to resolve features and interoperability issues with different vendors.

Q: Do I have to test every product I manufacture? What if they differ only in port count, etc.?

A: Products that differ from each other in outward areas (port count, interconnects, director vs. edge class hardware) do not need to be tested so long as their internals (chipsets, firmware, and software) are identical.

Q: Where are the ONF-Approved Testing Labs?

A: The first ONF-Approved Testing lab is the InCNTRE lab in Indianapolis, Indiana, and others are coming online soon. If you are a testing lab looking to join the growing ranks of ONF-Approved labs, please contact us and we can share the program details, and helpful information about earning the ISO 17025 certification, a key prerequisite to becoming ONF-Approved.

Q: How are ONF-Approved Testing Labs accredited?

A: ONF-Approved Testing labs undergo a rigorous process that includes each lab earning the coveted ISO 17025 certification for testing labs (“General requirements for the competence of testing and calibration laboratories”). In addition to earning and maintaining this ISO certification, each lab agrees to abide by all aspects of the testing program as managed by ONF, which includes strict NDA with product companies, a binding pledge to address any testing difficulties professionally and via an outline grievance process that includes a final appeal to ONF, and with a firm commitment to customer service.

Q: How much do ONF-Approved Testing Labs pay to ONF?

A: ONF-Approved Testing Labs do not pay any program fees to ONF. They receive revenue directly from companies who contract with them for testing services.

Q: I have to pay for testing?

A: Yes, companies contract independently with the testing lab to cover their expenses and services in maintaining, managing, and operating their testing labs. They have earned the right to deliver accurate and trusted results, and will work with your company to design a testing plan and schedule that is customized to your production and product release schedule.

Q: I am concerned about security and the testing process.

A: Security is a paramount concern for ONF, both in its test development & “Plugfesting” activities, as well as in the dealings that product companies have with ONF-Approved Testing Labs. All participants in ONF PlugFests are bound by a rigid NDA, which covers any and all behaviors and performance of products during the activity. Companies are “free to fail”—to learn the “what” and “why” products don’t work—and to fix them in real time, unafraid of adverse publicity. The same rigid nondisclosure policies are mandated between ONF Approved Testing Labs and product companies seeking testing, so no testing results will ever be released without your company’s permission. They have the sensitivity to respect confidential product development and introduction schedules, and will tailor a process with your company so that any concerns about security can be mitigated. Of course, they welcome your presence and inspection of their facilities.

Q: What if my product(s) fail the Conformance Test?

A: Each ONF-Approved Testing Lab has its own unique approach to a non-conformance result should one of your products fail to pass the Conformance Test. Pretesting and participation in ONF PlugFests improves your chances of passing the test without retesting. Discuss your options with your testing provider during your initial inquiries with the ONF-Approved Testing Lab.


Congratulations—Your Product(s) are Conformant!

Q: How can I use the ONF OpenFlow® Conformance Logo?

A: After the ONF-Approved Testing lab sends ONF official notice that a company’s product(s) have earned a Certificate of Conformance, ONF sends an agreement that covers the full use of the “OpenFlow® Conformant” logo, which is a registered trademark of ONF. An ONF Certificate of Conformance is the highest level of assurance available in the market today to validate compliance with a particular version of the OpenFlow® specification.

Q: How long is my Certificate of Conformance applicable?

A: Your conformance is valid so long as a product is sold, for that specific version of OpenFlow, and the firmware that was testing in the conformance testing process. There are no annual fees, no usage rates, etc., associated with the use of the “OpenFlow® Conformant” logo, and the presence of products on ONF’s website.

Q: How do I put my products on the OpenFlow® Conformance Program product website?

A: Any ONF-Approved Testing Lab can provide information about the process of getting products listed on the ONF OpenFlow® Conformant Products web listing. In addition to listing product(s) and a simple description, as well as contact information, links back to more extensive collateral on your company website are also permitted.


Further Questions

Q: Something we did not address?

A: For further questions not addressed in the FAQ, please send an e-mail to