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Technologies to watch 2013: Cisco products, more maturity for SDNs in 2013

Jim Duffy | Jan. 3, 2013
There was a lot of news and hype swirling around Software-Defined Networking in 2012, so what's on tap for 2013?

There was a lot of news and hype swirling around Software-Defined Networking in 2012, so what's on tap for 2013?


Significant advances are in store for SDNs this year, leading to even more in 2014. Some of the milestones expected in 2013 include:

  • Advances in the OpenFlow standard
  • Introduction of more SDN- and programmability-enabled products
  • Progress in production and proof-of-concept implementations
  • More applications written to SDN APIs and methodologies
  • And coalescence around specific northbound and southbound APIs for application- and controller-to-switch interaction.

"We'll have QoS and security issues resolved" in OpenFlow 1.3 says Eric Johnson, CEO of Adara Networks, a Silicon Valley-based company that develops SDN software. "You'll see cloud controller software start to centralize around one version of OpenFlow. And then you'll also see northbound APIs and southbound APIs with greater use of Interface to Routing System (specifications) as well as OpenFlow."

Johnson believes RESTful APIs will be the standard on the northbound side while OpenFlow will be among several APIs used on the southbound side. In fact, one southbound API could be SNMP, he says, the network management polling protocol that's been in use for decades.

"There's a lot of legacy network infrastructure for which something else (besides OpenFlow) would be better, because you may not want to replace the control plane," Johnson says. "You may just want to leverage it."

Big Switch agrees with the need to be able to include legacy investments in SDN architectures and supports what it calls a hybrid approach to network virtualization, using both native OpenFlow and an overlay approach to support network resources that do not "sit on a hypervisor," says co-founder Kyle Forster.

Big Switch, one of the founding fathers of the SDN movement, had a big year in 2012, officially unveiling its OpenFlow-based controller and applications, disclosing a large roster of partners (including many industry heavy hitters), and announcing big customers - Fidelity Investments and Goldman Sachs. It also celebrated 10,000 downloads of Floodlight, the open source version of its SDN controller code.

What does it see on tap for 2013?

A doubling of the number of Floodlight downloads, for one, Forster says. Another expectation is that vendors that offer complete SDN solutions - data plane, control plane and applications, all inclusive - will start to separate themselves from the pack, based on customer demand.

"We'll see big Fortune 500s really lead the charge and say, 'Hey, here's the stuff that's mature enough for us to put into our networks,'" Forster says.

And while OpenFlow today has been focused on Layer 2/3 virtualization, Forster expects 2013 to usher in more players focused on Layer 4-7 applications and services, such as firewalls, application delivery controllers and monitoring in multitenant environments.


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