Trends & Takeaways from SDN & OpenFlow World Congress

Recently, I had the opportunity to travel to the Netherlands for the annual SDN & OpenFlow World Congress. Contrasting this year’s event with years past, 2016 felt much more mature. Where once presentation audiences were mostly comprised of other speakers, this year the rooms were filled with attendees, including communications service providers and vendors, who were there solely to learn. Instead of a figurative “science project” trying to prove that SDN is a legitimate option, the SDN & OpenFlow World Congress highlighted for attendees all of the options available for SDN deployment.   

Choices, Choices, Choices

SDN is about more than hardware savings: it is about the programmatic decomposition of the network, separating the control and management from the data plane. OpenFlow is an initial prevalent communications interface defined between the control and forwarding layers of an SDN architecture, but there are other options available as well. One thing that became clear during the conference is that there is abundance of options, both open source and proprietary, that service providers are considering.

On the controller side, OpenDaylight is one of the best-known SDN controllers. However, ONOS and commercial controller solutions from vendors such as Sanctum Networks also have a place. Radisys has integrated FlowEngine with Sanctum Networks’ Jupiter SDN Controller, which uses standard protocols such as OpenFlow and Netconf, to deliver an SDN-enabled network services platform. Service providers are evaluating the choices to determine where they want to put their investments.

There is also a variety of management and orchestration framework options from which to choose. They include Open-O (backed by the Linux Foundation), OpenMano, AT&T’s ECOMP and CORD (Central Office Re-architected as a Datacenter). A year ago, CORD was barely mentioned; at this year’s conference, CORD got a lot of airplay in the discussion, both in presentations and in conversations in the conference hall. Radisys is a partner and system integrator for the open CORD project.

The choices available for network operating systems are just as diverse with both commercial and open source offerings such as Cumulus, OpenSwitch, ICOS, SONiC, Pica8, or even pure open source Linux using the switchdev driver model.

I expect at next year’s show we will see which of these options has become more prominent and are being meaningfully deployed. I also anticipate there will be convergence in the industry with some of the present options merging or falling away.

Where Radisys Fits

The vast number of architecture options aligns nicely with Radisys’ philosophy. We provide our customers with choice. We support multiple control interfaces, enabling greater flexibility on the data plane. For example, while we’re very involved with CORD, we don’t dictate which software architecture elements carriers use. What Bryan Sadowski said in his pre-show blog post held true, “Open is mandatory.”

At the same time, the number of software options has created an increased need for system integrators to fill the gap. This was another key discussion point during the week that service providers made over and over again. Vendors must deliver SDN and NFV products that interoperate and that work in the real world in a multi-vendor environment. Another point made by service providers is that they are not going to wait for vendors. We’ve seen this play out with service providers such as AT&T and SK Telecom taking a leading role in the open CORD project.

I believe that product companies must become service companies. Radisys’ focus on software and services has it primed to deliver the software roadmap that applies to a multi-vendor ecosystem, filling the gap between open source software and delivery of fully integrated solutions. Contact us to learn how Radisys can help your organization.






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