SDN is now ready for deployment despite the best efforts of the major hardware manufacturers to keep users locked into legacy systems.
So said Paul Gampe, CTO at Brisbane based Console, during a talk at the Asia-Pacific Network Information Centre’s (APNIC) annual conference, APRICOT 2017, in session this week in Ho Chi Minh City.
Gampe defines SDN as high-level abstraction of the network so that it can be programmed. This does not necessarily mean the separation of control and data planes though that is often one of the first uses. For many, the term SDN is synonymous with OpenFlow but really that’s one specific protocol – Gampe said he prefers to think of it as the technology that came out of research in the 1990s.
Moving a virtual machine from one data center to another has become a point-and-click affair and often is fully automated. The network needs to follow that example and be virtualized – and SDN is critical to that virtualization. But the question for networks has always been: is SDN is ready for prime time? Gampe argues that it is, citing two large scale-deployments by Google and New Zealand’s REANNZ academic research network.
For Google, SDN is not just about the network within the data center but also across data centers. However, in order to achieve that, they had to build their own hardware.
Gampe said that studies of OpenFlow deployment over the last five years have shown customization is a common theme. Manufacturers are simply not supporting OpenFlow and allowing operators to adopt it as a true open-source solution. He noted that equipment from Cisco and Juniper claim to support OpenFlow, but with a whole list of caveats.
However, here in Asia-Pacific, REANZZ has been able to deploy OpenFlow at scale using hardware from Accton Technology and Allied Telesis.
Going forward, Gampe said that there is still much work to do on OpenFlow. While the open-source community has had a huge impact as we see in the Linux Kernel, this has not yet happened in the SDN space. The most success open-source has seen is in the Linux Foundation’s OpenDaylight project and the ONOS control plane automation OS. The depth of open-source on SDN is very light and still up in the control plane. There has been some headway in open-source in switches and routers as well, through the ONI (Open Network Initiative).
Gampe said that there is a misconception that SDN means centralization – but there are currently software defined internet exchanges (SDX) where white box switches can now run their own distributed state as opposed to a centralized control plane.