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SDN Initiatives Launched as Industry Matures

Several software-defined networking (SDN)-flavored projects were announced at this week's Open Compute Project summit, while Telco Systems became the latest vendor to propose an initiative to bring more structure to the growing SDN and network functions virtualization (NFV) industry.

The Massachusetts-based company yesterday launched its Open Edge Alliance to create an ecosystem of best-of-breed SDN and distributed NFV (D-NFV) solutions targeting the network edge.

"The Open Edge Alliance is our [D-NFV] partnership program that brings hardware and software developers and domain experts together with carriers as they transition into the brave new world of SDN/NFV," the project's Web site states. "Together, we are transforming networks with intelligence and flexible solutions delivered from the network edge."

Targeting network "edges" is a popular tactic lately, as evidenced by the recent unveiling of the Avaya OpenSDN FX, an architecture described as "the first to deliver automation and programmability from the network core to the user edge."

In the case of Telco Systems, the new alliance will stock an online store featuring apps vetted to run the company's carrier-grade CloudMetro platform for hosting D-NFV solutions.

"CloudMetro enables services providers to transform their networks from mere transport to fully IT-enabled networks -- highly orchestrated, agile and virtualized," the company said in a statement. "It combines a switch and an integrated x86 CPU from Intel as a hosting processor to meet performance demands for processor-intensive SDN and NFV applications."

Meanwhile, taking a more open approach as befits an OCP summit, Dell Inc. was among vendors proposing SDN- and NFV-related initiatives.

Dell submitted a Switch Abstraction Interface (SAI) to the OCP for review. It provides for a common language to be used with a vendor network OS (NOS) and whatever specific silicon chips being used in physical switches.

"SAI is a standardized API to express switch abstractions, and is extensible and programmer-friendly," the company said in a blog post this week. "It is open for third-party developers, who can build applications to help customers tailor their network equipment to meet unique infrastructure requirements. It also allows for granular control and better visibility into network operations, thus providing customers with choice and flexibility, as well as fostering rapid innovation within the ecosystem."

Some major vendors working on the project include Big Switch Networks Inc., Mellanox Technologies, Microsoft and Broadcom Corp.

Speaking of Broadcom, the Irvine, Calif., company announced the availability of its Open Network Switch Library (OpenNSL), a software interface featuring APIs that developers can use to create apps to run on the company's StrataXGS switching hardware.

"With the OpenNSL software platform, Broadcom is publishing APIs that map Broadcom's Software Development Kit (SDK) to an open northbound interface, enabling the integration of new applications and the ability to optimize switch hardware platforms," the company said. "This gives users the freedom to control their technology, share their designs and boost application innovation. Examples include network monitoring, load balancing, service chaining, workload optimization and traffic engineering."

Broadcom said OpenNSL supports Dell's SAI effort to form one common, hardware-agnostic, unified API for working with Ethernet switches. "OpenNSL provides datacenter operators with the freedom to control their equipment so that it operates in a more efficient, cost-effective way that meets their specific needs," said company exec Eli Karpilovski in a blog post.

"This is a historic moment for anyone interested in innovation," Karpilovski said. "Broadcom and its partners are actively lowering the barriers to entry into open networking by helping customers and the open source community get access to industry-proven technologies at a lower cost."

Microsoft also announced it was showcasing its own first SAI implementations at the OCP summit.

"We are thrilled to showcase SAI as one of our latest contributions to the OCP," the company said. "Microsoft has been a driving factor on the software side, along with several industry contributors, in contributing SAI to the OCP. SAI is a specification by the OCP that provides a consistent programming interface for common networking functions implemented by network switch ASICs. In addition, SAI allows network switch vendors to continue to build innovative features through extensions."

The OCP was founded by Broadcom and other major vendors -- led by Facebook -- four years ago to share and collaborate on the design of products for enterprise datacenters. "The Open Compute Project Foundation is a rapidly growing community of engineers around the world whose mission is to design and enable the delivery of the most efficient server, storage and datacenter hardware designs for scalable computing," the project's Web site states.

About the Author

David Ramel is the editor of Visual Studio Magazine.

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