NEC, Meru Networks Lead Convergence of Software-Defined Networking and Wi-Fi

NEC Corporation of America (NEC) and Meru Networks are joining forces to bring the benefits of software-defined networking (SDN) to Wi-Fi networks.

The two companies will work together to support the OpenFlow protocol to ensure the NEC ProgrammableFlow Networking Suite and Meru 802.11ac intelligent Wi-Fi products work together seamlessly in unified wired and wireless networks.

OpenFlow is the communication protocol championed by the Open Networking Foundation (ONF) as an integral part of open standards-based SDN networks. OpenFlow provides the interface by which network intelligence -- or the control plane -- communicates with switches on the lower-level data or forwarding plane.

In traditional networking, devices on the data/forwarding plane contain the network "smarts" about how to route traffic as part of proprietary, mostly closed systems specific to each vendor. The upstart SDN movement seeks to provide open standards so so-called "bare-metal" or "white-box" commodity switches from different vendors can work in more open networks, increasing network programmability and lowering total cost of ownership, among many other claimed benefits.

SDN architecture.
[Click on image for larger view.]SDN Architecture (source: Open Networking Foundation)

OpenFlow provides the southbound APIs that the controller uses to communicate with the decoupled data/forwarding plane, providing directions for behavior based on business logic requirements. The interface is described as southbound as the commands emanate from the top controller level and travel "southward" down to the lower data/forwarding level.

"The BYOD phenomenon and upcoming explosion of the Internet of Things (IoT) are pressuring IT departments to become more agile," the companies said in a statement last week. "However, most networks today are being managed using antiquated proprietary command line interfaces (CLI).

"Open standards-based SDN support simplifies network management and provisioning by enabling greater automation and accelerating the deployment of new applications and services. It also enables application-specific service-level agreements (SLAs) and development of third-party applications for network traffic monitoring, location-based services and enhanced security."

NEC and Meru noted that they were among the first companies to earn certificates of conformance from the ONF, an organization with more than 100 members that counts among its board members Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Verizon and other major industry players. Meru last month became the first company to earn conformance for wireless networking from the year-old ONF conformance program, while NEC was the first recipient of an OpenFlow conformance certificate last October. NEC claims its ProgrammableFlow Networking Suite, introduced in 2011, was the first commercial SDN product to use the OpenFlow protocol. The suite consists of a ProgrammableFlow Unified Network Controller, an SDN controller, a ProgrammableFlow UI and several types of virtual and physical switches.

Now NEC will work to ensure that its suite of products works well with the Meru 802.11ac standard, which the company says builds upon the 802.11n standard that is now the most pervasive WLAN standard in use. The company's 802.11ac products provide wider channels and other enhancements that result in higher data rates, reliability and efficient use of wireless radio spectrum.

"Meru and NEC share a vision for creating truly open networks through OpenFlow and SDN that allow customers to choose best-of-breed networking solutions," said Dr. Bami Bastani, president and CEO of Meru. "Working together, we can set a new standard for vendor interoperability, increasing agility and lowering costs for our customers as they move into the open networking era."

About the Author

David Ramel is an editor and writer for Converge360.


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