SAN JOSE, Calif. – Broadcom is working with two communications OEMs and a group of apps developers to write a high-level applications programming interface for software-defined networks. The API is an attempt at a vendor-neutral, hybrid approach that could embrace both today’s distributed protocols and OpenFlow, a radically new and disruptive approach to SDNs.
OpenFlow aims to simplify the building and managing of big networks by centralizing comms jobs on x86 servers. Theoretically, it replaces today’s complex set of distributed protocols run in an array of merchant chips and ASICs in a variety of proprietary software environments.
“No one is going to replace all their networks and run OpenFlow--you have to provide flexibility in the networks people already have,” said Rajiv Ramaswami, general manager of Broadcom’s infrastructure and networking group in an interview with EE Times.
“If you run everything in a [central] OpenFlow controller, you have to go to that controller for every decision, and that’s a bottleneck and scaling issue,” said Sujal Das, director of product marketing in the group. “One needs to take a more holistic approach."
Broadcom’s API effort aims to enable both OpenFlow and distributed networking protocols already in use. It hopes the interface could become an industry standard above vendor-specific efforts at SDN APIs announced by Cisco Systems and others.
“With the changing dynamics we are increasing asked to map to higher level APIs, and that’s where we are putting our work,” said Das.
Broadcom is recruiting backers for the project but has not yet started active development on the API. So far, the group contains no other merchant chip makers.
If comms vendors see the effort as competitive and fail to embrace it, the API risks becoming yet another software stack that end users may need to support. The API also has to attract a following of apps developers who add value to the interface.