SDN – flow control and APIs


This is a cross post from the CohesiveFT corp blog.

A friend and former colleague recently asked me, “on the SDN front – anything you’d recommend reading in terms of positioning, and compare/contrast of quantum vs. openflow vs. onePK vs…….?”. This was my reply:

OK… based on my limited understanding (I don’t consider myself anything close to being an expert on this stuff yet – I have that mountain to climb in front of me).

OpenFlow is a protocol for describing L2 paths. It’s more of a policy definition than a language, and I met a professor at Princeton a while back who was looking into the issues involved in parsing OpenFlow (it isn’t pretty).

Quantum is the OpenStack API for L2/L3. There are various plugins available to a bunch of OpenFlow implementations (which will immediately give you an impression of how ‘standard’ OpenFlow itself is), plus plugins for other (virtual) networking gear.

onePK is a combination of APIs and management tools for Cisco gear. If it talks IOS then onePK can be stuck in front of it.

It looks like the world is splitting into 2×2 directions:

In one dimension it’s about flow control, and the players are OpenFlow and flow control protocol buried in IOS. The network equipment vendors that aren’t Cisco seem to be rushing to adopt OpenFlow, as it gives them leverage against IOS. Cisco itself would seem to have no interest in OpenFlow (why would it?) but I’m sure there will be others that come up with ways to parse OpenFlow into IOS incantations.

The other dimension is about APIs, and the players are Quantum and onePK, so again we see a Cisco versus rest of the world split, but also again there’s an incentive (for everybody except Cisco) to bring Cisco gear into the rest of the world fold. The twist here is that APIs aren’t exclusive (though Oracle are still trying to persuade a judge that they are), so onePK might well end up being the Trojan horse that Cisco has rolled up to its own gates (once somebody cranks out a Quantum to onePK adaptor).

As inevitably happens with these things the bottom left and top right corners are the interesting ones. Bottom left is anchored on Cisco with IOS and onePK. It’s a little more interesting than a past world of just IOS, but it’s about preserving the Cisco networking hegemony. Top right is OpenFlow and Quantum, and is where the real disruptive action is going on.

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