Diving into the details
A handful of startups are pushing for the shift to OpenFlow including Big Switch Networks
. The startup is shipping OpenFlow controller software sand is preparing to beta test an application for network virtualization that will compete with the new HP software.
“An increasing number of switch vendors see software-defined networking as the way forward--we see that happening all over the place,” said Kyle Forster who founded Big Switch along with one of the Stanford researchers behind OpenFlow.
The OpenFlow specification is at a critical juncture. The current version 1.2 relies heavily on an implementation using routing tables embedded in ternary content addressable memories (TCAMs). But most routers are based on tables stored and run on ASIC designs proprietary to companies such as Cisco.
The OpenFlow Foundation
is working on a new version of the spec that uses a hardware abstraction layer. The HAL would let the OpenFlow code use the tables embedded in today’s ASICs.
“This is a big thing to try to accomplish,” said Cisco’s Meyer who said the effort is in progress although a formal group has yet to be chartered. “We want to have something in the 8-12 month time frame,” he said.
Meanwhile HP is rolling out three pieces of code as part of its first commercial implementation of software-defined networking.
A VAN manager module provides templates, parameters and policies for configuring data center switches using virtual machines on HP servers. A VMWare plug-in links HPs software to virualization code from VMWare, and HP is releasing a set of APIs for its VAN initiative that are compliant with existing open source OpenFlow APIs.
The manager module and APIs will be available his spring with prices starting at $9,995 each. The VMWare plug-in is free.