SANTA CLARA, Calif. — The communications industry is in the early days of a transition to software-defined networking, said proponents at the annual Open Networking Summit here. The same day an analyst reported a decline in router and switch sales, due in part to large buyers retooling for the technology.
SDN aims to ease the work of building and running large networks. It does this by moving network tasks from today's complex and proprietary ASICs and APIs to standard interfaces, merchant chips, and open-source software.
"We're at the beginning if the S curve [in SDN] with Google, Facebook, Amazon, and NTT adopting and a few others actively deploying it, but it will be several years before it is mainstream," said Guru Parulkar, the chair of the event and executive director at the Open Networking Research Center that works on SDN.
"We will build network infrastructure with white boxes running merchant silicon, open-source network OSs, and services. This will not happen overnight, but it will come."
In the SDN vision, many tasks will be handled as applications running on Linux servers, said Dan Pitt, executive director of the Open Networking Foundation behind the OpenFlow protocol: "The future of the network is Ethernet, x86, and OpenFlow -- nothing is controlled by a single party, it's all community based."
The so-called northbound API on which these network applications will be built will need to emerge from the industry, said Pitt. However, the ONF is working on a hardware abstraction layer that he believes could become a standard for addressing SDN switch chips.
"Mellanox was the first with open [switch chip] APIs, [but] these APIs still describe their proprietary SDK -- it's hard to innovate on something someone can change at will," he said.
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