Cisco’s software controller marks its first major step into the emerging market for software-defined networks (SDNs). It embraces both the OpenFlow protocol supporting by the Open Networking Foundation and its own proprietary variant called OnePK.
Proponents of OpenFlow aim to level the playing field for communications systems based on proprietary ASICs, software environments and a jungle of protocols. In their place, OpenFlow aims to create a more open and high-level software environment where network operators and vendors will create and control network features as software applications.
The Cisco controller supports Rest and Java interfaces for programmers writing network applications. The controller then speaks to switches and routers through the OpenFlow or OnePK interfaces.
Cisco says it will support all SDN interfaces including several still in the works, but clearly favors its own OnePK.
“We want to meet developers where they are—this is not a controller tied to any particular technology,” said Shashi Kiran, senior director of data center and cloud networking at Cisco. “OnePK can take advantage of our hardware features [but] OpenFlow needs to work against a more abstract switch model,” he said.
The controller is still in beta testing. Cisco expects it could support Version 1.3 of OpenFlow when the controller is released in the middle of the year.