Software Defined Networking - "The Biggest Thing Since Ethernet"

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Big Shots Start New Cloud Standards Body

They have formed a standards-setting Open Networking Foundation (ONF)

Deutsche Telekom, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Verizon and Yahoo, all big network owners, said Monday that they have formed a standards-setting Open Networking Foundation (ONF) that'll promote an approach to networking called Software-Defined Networking (SDN) that makes networks programmable like computers.

They got 17 other companies to sign up including heavyweights like Cisco, Broadcom, Juniper Networks, NTT, IBM, HP and VMware.

ONF says SDN works through relatively simple software changes and applies to all kinds of networks including data centers, wide area telecommunication networks, wireless networks, enterprises and homes.

SDN is supposed to give network owners and operators better control over their networks, let them optimize network behavior and prioritize data.

ONF said SDN can be used in data centers to reduce energy usage by allowing some routers to be powered down during off-peak periods. It could also set up on-demand "express lanes" for time-sensitive voice and data traffic or let telecom giants combine several fiber optic backbones together temporarily to handle heavy traffic, the New York Times said.

It's a matter of newfangled centralized cloud computing versus old-line decentralized network design, the paper said. It separates packet switching mechanisms from control functions.

SDN comes out of six years of research at Stanford and Berkeley. It's based on a software interface called OpenFlow for controlling how packets are forwarded through network switches (sorta like the BIOS firmware in a PC, GigaOM says), and a set of global management interfaces that advanced management tools can be built on. It's supposed to eventually improve security and might improve privacy.

It could perhaps - blessedly - detect DDOS attacks better.

GigaOM describes it as the commoditization of networking imagining Google buying networking silicon from Broadcom and building its own switches, creating its own network topography using OpenFlow and putting firmware providers like Cisco, Juniper and Force 10 at risk.

ONF says its first job will be to adopt and lead the development of the OpenFlow standard (www.openflow.org) and encourage its adoption by freely licensing it to all member companies, hoping for supporting hardware and controllers by the end of the year.

It will then start defining global management interfaces.

Google's senior VP of engineering Urs Hoelzle will be president and chairman of ONF. The general manager of Windows Azure Infrastructure at Microsoft Arne Josefsberg is on the board.

The rest of the members include Brocade, Ciena, Citrix, Dell, Ericsson, Force10, Marvell, NEC, Netgear and Riverbed Technology.

Cisco, HP and Juniper have prototypes supporting OpenFlow.

See www.opennetworkingfoundation.org.

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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