Extreme isn’t discussing all the details yet, but the bulk of the plan involves the products the company already offers, such as its Ethernet switches, its ExtremeXOS operating system, and higher-level pieces such as its NetSight network management and Purview analytics.
But Extreme thinks it can add up to more than just a bunch of switches that do SDN.
“Our role with regard to SDN is to become a platform provider,” says Markus Nispel, Extreme’s vice president of solutions architecture and innovation. “In 2016 or 2017, there’s an inflection point in market that we and a few analysts expect,” where SDN starts encompassing entire networks. As that happens, “we want to be a center of gravity for the SDN paradigm,” he says.
Extreme also plans to develop SDN to extend beyond the data center, with orchestration that could reside in the cloud or on-premises.
The controller itself will be an enhanced version of OpenDaylight’s code. Extreme is talking about its additions mostly in generalities: Wi-Fi, security, analytics, and policy. These pieces exist in Extreme’s portfolio in Java-based form. They’ll become plug-ins that Extreme will use in its controller and will also submit to the OpenDaylight community, says Dan Dulac, vice president of solutions strategy.
And like most of the industry, Extreme is also branching beyond OpenFlow. The company expects to support “multifaceted” northbound and southbound interfaces, including a non-OpenFlow southbound interface that would connect the controller to legacy equipment, Dulac says.
Life Beyond OpenFlow
That’s a bit of a change. Extreme was a relatively early proponent of OpenFlow, adding support for the protocol to its equipment in mid-2012. By March of 2013, Extreme was also outlining plans to build commodity switches based on the Switch Light open-source software offered by Big Switch Networks.
Despite all that, Extreme was among the companies that chose not to support OpenDaylight early on. Now that the first code release has come out, Extreme has decided to join the OpenDaylight Project (as announced earlier in June) and take advantage of the head start that the OpenDaylight controller provides.
HP similiarly took a cautious view of OpenDaylight before deciding to upgrade its support to platinum status. In both cases, OpenDaylight has done enough to ease the vendors’ concerns about its viability.
“We just see there’s a lot of energy around OpenDaylight,” Nispel says. “From our perspective, OpenDaylight will achieve what the ONF [Open Networking Foundation] wasn’t able to pull off, which is a set of northbound APIs” for application portability, he says. (The ONF is investigating northbound interfaces, but Nispel believes any resulting standards would end up being controller-specific.)
General availability of Extreme’s OpenDaylight-based controller will come later this year, but an early version could be available by September for the Extreme SDN Innovation Challenge. It’s a contest Extreme will announce June 24 at the U.S. Ignite Application Summit, being held at Juniper headquarters in Sunnyvale, Calif. The challenge involves finding ways to use Extreme’s SDN platform to “make a difference” in areas such as education or healthcare.
Beyond that, Extreme plans to launch its SDN framework in phases, often focused on particular use cases or environments, Nispel says.