2013 Open Network Summit (ONS) Announcements, Take Aways & Conclusions

The information packed 2013 ONS (April 15-17th in Santa Clara, CA) saturated my brain with volumes of SDN and Network Virtualization architectures, product pitches, trials, and use cases.  A multi-part series on this important conference will be published in the coming week at viodi.com.  This article will cover a few important announcements, take-aways and key messages from this sold out summit.
1.  Transforming Networks with NFV & SDN by Rose Schooler, VP, Intel Architecture Group and GM of Communications and Storage Infrastructure Group. 
Intel announed three new products related to SDN and Network Virtualization:
  • Open Networking Platform Switch reference design:  a switching platform reference design based on Intel silicon and software intended help product companies build new kinds of infrastructure. It includes Wind River Open Network Software (ONS) – an open and fully customizable network switching software stack using Wind River Linux.  ONS  supports the ONF OpenFlow standard and Open vSwitch.  
  • Data Plane Development Kit:  a software package that works with Open vSwitch and helps engineers with low-level operations (memory, queues) and small packet performance.  Intel’s acceleration targets are 10x for physical port-to-port switching and 5x for VM-to-VM.
  • Open Networking Platform Server:  an x86 server reference design that combines the above hardware and software packages to enable creation of virtual appliances or similar products.

    See Intel’s press release (http://newsroom.intel.com/community/intel_newsroom/blog/2013/04/17/intel-accelerates-the-data-center-and-telecom-network-transformation-with-new-reference-architectures) for more information. 

  • “SDN and NFV are critical elements of Intel’s vision to transform the expensive, complex networks of today to a virtualised, programmable, standards-based architecture running commercial off-the-shelf hardware.  The reference designs announced today enable a new phase in the evolution of the network and represent Intel’s commitment to driving an open environment that fosters business agility and smart economics,”  Ms Schooner said in the press release.

    Rose invited Allwyn Sequeira, VP/CTO of Security and Networking at VMware, on the stage to talk about their ongoing collaboration.  Allwyn talked about the NSX platform, and emphasized decoupling networking from the underlying hardware to “abstract, pool, and automate” network resources like virtualized servers.  NSX is based on overlays and network virtualization.  It doesn’t conform to the strict ONF definition of SDN, nor does it use the Open Flow protocol. Prodip Sen, Director of Network Architecture at Verizon  talked about their collaboration with Intel on a cloud bursting trial with dynamic bandwidth allocation/re-allocation.

    After the conference, Rose made the following comment via email to this author:  “I completely agree that SDN and NFV are complimentary but different – that’s the Intel view as well. We created the 2013 ONS presentation with the assumption that the difference was understood by the audience.”

    2. Open SDN: An Introduction to OpenDaylight, by Inder Gopal – VP of Technology at IBM
    This was the first public discussion of the new Open Daylight initiative since it was announced about one week ago.  OpenDaylight is an open source SDN software project being done under the umbrella of the Linux foundation.  It’s goal is to accelerate the adoption of SDN technologies through creation of a common, industry-supported framework.  It seems to be aimed at creating an open-source, standardized SDN Controller software module and open source software for various applications that use SDN-Open Flow.  Inder explained that there is no “angle” or “hidden agenda” behind the project, e.g. like threatening VMWare or SDN start-ups with software IP.   It was interesting that the consortium chose to use the Eclipse Public License instead of the GPL or Apache-style licenses. 
    Mr Gopal clearly stated up front that the project will be run in a way that is about meritocracy, not politics.  That would be a refreshing change from most consortiums which are often political machines to drive vendor agendas or systems architectures.  If the project is successful, customers implementing SDN controllers or applications will be able to take the OpenDaylight source code and purchase integration and support services from their trusted vendor of choice.  That would make SDN more of a services business.

    Matthew Palmer wrote in a recent blog post that SDN may now stand for Services Defined Networking.  “When we look at SDN and OpenDaylight under a services lens and view SDN technologies as more similar to enterprise software or service provider BSS / OSS software than traditional networking boxes — where every software deployment is custom, it appears the service opportunity for SDN maybe even larger than the software implications to the over all networking market.” 

    3.  Open Networking Foundation-Year 3, by Dan Pitt, Executive Director of the ONF (and for many years IBM’s leader for token ring standardization in IEEE 802.  Also, a colleague of this author for 30 years). 
    Dan gave a general update on the ONF’s progress over the year and their plans for 2013.  The ONF appears to be heavily focused on standardizing OpenFlow v1.4 and v1.5, as well as expanding interfaces like OF-Configuration.  The ONF is wants to create value for its members, which consists of a mix of network equipment vendors, carriers and end users. 
    Dan announced an OpenFlow driver competition (details and prize information were announced on April 17th). 
    The ONF’s plans are to stabilize and expand the OpenFlow ecosystem, by the promulgation of open standards and APIs.  ONF unveiled its technical roadmap for 2013 on April 16th (the same day as Dan’s talk)
    During the Q &A, Dan was asked about ONF’s relationship to the new Open Daylight initiative.  Dan replied by positioning the ONF as a “substrate” that enables frameworks like Open Daylight to exist.  It will be interesting to see if he is proven to be correct.  (4 days after this article was published, Dan elaborated on ONF’s position on Open Daylight. Please read his comment in the box below this article.)

    4.  “Service Provider SDN” is gaining market traction, although it’s not clear if Service Providers (telcos, MSOs, cloud networking providers, etc) will require use of the ONS-Open Flow standard, and/or require strict separation of data and control plane in “SDN” networking equipment. 
    Large telcos such as Verizon, NTT, DT, Telstra, gave talks on their SDN trials and future projects.  Telecom/ network equipment vendors like Huawei, Ericsson, Ciena, Alcatel-Lucent (Nuage Networks), Cisco and Juniper all gave talks and/or had booths in the exhibit hall.  The telco motivation is the same: quicker provisioning of new services, facilties, coping with exponential traffic increases by dynamically allocating bandwidth, reconfiguration/moves and changes, etc.
    That’s a huge change from the last year, where almost all of the SDN buzz was dominated by data center networking or cloud SDN access (Arista Network’s pitch) for delivery of cloud computing and storage services.  But it remains to be seen if telcos wil go the SDN-Open Flow route or not.  Many, like DT, are likely to pursue Network Functions Virtualization (or NFV) which is being defined by an ETSI WG, which was only created three months ago.
    There may also be keen network operator interest in a new ONF Optical Transport WG chaired by Lyndon Ong of Ciena. The new WG will address SDN and OpenFlow™ Standard-based control capabilities for optical transport networks. The work will include identifying use cases, defining a target reference architecture for controlling optical transport networks incorporating the OpenFlow Standard, and identifying and creating OpenFlow protocol extensions.
    [More about this Optical Transport WG and Ciena’s view of SDN in the aforementioned Viodi.com articles to be published later this week. Stay tuned for those.]

    In a follow-up email, Lyndon had this to say about ONS and SDN:
    “SDN is one of the most exciting developments in networking in some time, and has the potential to unlock innovation and upgrade network efficiencies. I’m looking forward to working together with my industry colleagues through the ONF Optical Transport Working Group to address SDN and OpenFlow standards for optical transport network control. From a Ciena viewpoint I think this is very much in line with our focus on streamlined forwarding, software automation and programmability, and will lead to benefits to Ciena’s customers.”

    Joe Berthold, PhD Physics and VP of Network Architecture at Ciena corroborated his company’s committment to ONS-Open Flow:  “Ciena is aggressively embracing openness at both API levels – business applications to network control software, and network control software to network physical equipment – because we firmly believe that openness is the most critical attribute of SDN.  The point of SDN is to unleash productive innovation by making network behaviors more determined by software. Software is relatively malleable, accessible, and quick to change as needed to deliver something new.  But for these properties to be exploited, openness is essential. We are committed to bringing openness  to our network operator customers through our OPn architecture. As such, we are highly active in the Open Networking Foundation (ONF), where the industry’s leading organizations are collaborating to define the openness-based framework. In fact, we have been contributing significant resources to advance the work of the ONF, and currently two of our staff members serve as working group chairs.”

    Acknowledgement:  This author sincerely thanks Jamie Moody, Director of External Communications at Ciena for the interview with Lyndon and follow-up with Joe (who this author first interviewed in the Spring of 1998 on DWDM technology!).

    After an interview at ONS, Ericsson provided this statement (received via email from Dwight Witherspoon) about their ONS 2013 accomplishments (note that there is no mention of ONF-Open Flow compliance or strict separation of control and data planes in their products):
    “Ericsson demonstrated our Virtual Network System (VNS) and Service Chaining (data traffic steering). These live demonstrations added high value to the conference by showing Ericsson Service Provider SDN in action in collaboration with a major operator, Telstra. The VNS use case transforms an optical metro with carrier Ethernet switching capability into a virtual IP metro router using Service Provider SDN without replacing the CE optical nodes. The Service chaining use case optimizes an operator’s service resource usage in real time to lower OPEX and provide a premium end user experience. At ONS 2013, there was universal agreement amongst attendees that SDN is re-energizing telecom and networking in a way we haven’t seen for over a decade, and Ericsson is a leader by using data center SDN principles in the wide area network and to connect operator business systems to the network. Hence Ericsson Service Provider SDN.”
    In a follow up to an ONS interview, Ericsson provided this information via email:
    1. SDN Position from Ericsson:http://www.ericsson.com/news/130221-software-defined-networking-the-service-provider-perspective_244129229_c?categoryFilter=ericsson_review_1270673222_c
    2. Telstra, Ericsson and SDN:http://www.ericsson.com/news/130227-ericsson-demonstrates-service-provider-sdn-vision-at-mobile-world-congress_244129229_c
    3. Telstra and 1 TBPS:http://www.ericsson.com/news/1685811
    “Ericsson’s Service Provider SDN connects operator business systems to their network. Service Provider SDN meshes existing and new network technology with Integrated Network Control, enables efficient operations processes through Orchestrated Cloud and Network Management and catalyzes new revenue with Service Exposure.”

    5.  Network Virtualization: Delivering on the Promises of SDN by Bruce Davie, Principal Engineer at VMware (via the Nicira acquisition earlier this year)
    AUTHOR’s NOTE:  This was by far the best presentation of the conference!  It was clear, concise, very informative and with only a subtle sales pitch (vs most vendor presentos which were slam, bang, rat-a-tat-tat sales promotion with ineffective on stage demos).  Bruce is to be highly commended for this straight talk amidst all the ONS hype and promos!
    Bruce presented his main points right up front: 
    1.  Network Virtualization (NV) is not the same as SDN.
    2. You don’t need SDN to deliver NV.
    3. NV currently delivers on the important promises made by SDN. 
    Bruce supported the above points with a systematic   of recent SDN marketing messages – everything from “vendor choice” and “simplified programmability” to “applications can control the network” and “simpler operations / provisioning.”  These are really NOT unique to SDN-Open Flow, but could be accomplished sooner (like now) with Network Virtualization.  While he conceded that SDN is a serious option for developers, he also claimed that the burden of distributed algorithms and network software has just shifted to controllers from individual equipment types.
    A NV platform consists of an intelligent edge (virtual) switch, distributed controllers, and tunnels that decouple network services from the physical infrastructure (e.g. VMware’s NSX platform.)  Bruce said that “network overlays solve more problems than they create, they will enable network service innovation at software speeds, and that NV is its own thing (i.e. it delivers its own value, apart from SDN).”  The Microsoft and Ebay ONS presentations certainly supported his favorable view of NV over stictly defined SDN-Open Flow.

    In a follow up email, Bruce expressed a few thoughts on the 2013 ONS:
    “There were three main schools of thought at ONS2013.  As expected, one well-represented school could be called OpenFlow/SDN “Classic”. There were vendors of OpenFlow capable switches, ASICs, and controllers for those switches,
    as well as some customers looking to reap some benefits from SDN. Second, there was the approach labelled “SDN-washing” by Guru Parulkar. This was represented by some of the traditional networking vendors. The basic idea is to retain the full-featured, largely proprietary systems, but to dress them up with some sort of API, be it OpenFlow or something proprietary. As Guru said, this doesn’t really conform to the intent of SDN. Finally, there is the network
    virtualization school, well represented in the session on Data Center applications. As was clear from my talk,  I subscribe to this school of thought. (Microsoft’s) Albert Greenberg’s description of the Windows Azure architecture very much matches our vision of network virtualization, and JC Martin from eBay has already reaped the rewards of deploying network virtualization in his data center.”
    “To recap some points from my talk, I wanted to stress that network virtualization is not the same as SDN, and it does not even require SDN for its implementation. As it happens, we’ve used some SDN techniques in our implementation, but we also rely on other key technologies such as advanced software switching in the vswitch, and overlay tunneling. We also provide a network virtualization abstraction, something that is not delivered by SDN on its own. Network virtualization is delivering many benefits today, such as improved operational efficiency, vendor independence, and the decoupling of
    network services from the underlying physical network. This is all done in a way that is non-disruptive and incrementally deployable.”  For further comments please visit: http://cto.vmware.com/network-virtualization-in-the-software-defined-data-center/  and:  http://networkheresy.com/2013/04/13/what-should-networks-do-for-applications/
    “Thanks for the favorable comments on my talk.”

    Stay tuned for more ONS articles, including ONF Optical Transport WG, and comments from ONF.  Again, those articles will be published at viodi.com.  All current and previous Viodi View articles by this author can be accessed and read at: 

    Top Quality SDN Presentations:
    For those that didn’t attend our EXCEPTIONAL July 2012 ComSocSCV technical meeting on SDN, you can download
    presentos from Guru and Dan at:
    Scroll down to July 2012 meeting and click on the hot link:
    Date:Wednesday, July 11, 2012; 6:00pm-8:30pm

    Defined Networking (SDN) Explained — New Epoch or Passing Fad?

    Speaker 1: Guru Parulkar, Executive Director of Open Networking
    Research Center
    Subject: SDN: New Approach to Networking

    Speaker 2: Dan
    Pitt, Executive Director at the Open Networking Foundation
    Subject: The Open Networking Foundation