Like a lot of vendors, Huawei is pushing for software-defined networking (SDN) to remain as open as possible — a perspective that was at the heart of a keynote at the Linley Group Carrier Conference yesterday.
Justin Dustzadeh, Huawei’s CTO and vice president of product strategy for networks, was discussing Huawei’s SDN and network functions virtualization (NFV) positioning in general. While he didn’t mention Cisco by name, he did take a couple of opportunities to poke at Cisco’s approach — particularly Cisco’s Open Network Environment (ONE), which involves using APIs to let Cisco gear interact with outside software.
“We believe the only way to fulfill the promise of SDN is that these interfaces are standards-based and open,” he said. “If we go back to the same old model of having integrated devices with an abstraction point that sits very high on the stack and offer just APIs with everything integrated and closed under the hood — that’s not SDN, from our perspective. … Any point in the stack that an be opened up should be opened up.”
This is why OpenFlow, while being only one possible southbound interfaces, is a favored option within Huawei, he said.
Often, a vendor’s interest in openness is inversely proportional to its market share. Brocade, which has nothing to lose if Ethernet switching gets disrupted, is preaching SDN openness in a big way, for example.
Huawei’s is a slightly different case. It’s a bigger company that’s been a serious contender for service-provider business in most of the world, North America being a key exception.
But Huawei claims service providers are eager to take a best-of-breed approach in places such as the service edge, where the functions for NFV would reside. “They say: ‘We want to be able to go with our hardware vendor of choice and our server vendor of choice and shrink or expand capabilities as needed,'” Dustzadeh said.
Whether that can happen, even with the best of “open” intentions, is yet to be seen. Even in carrier markets that no vendor dominates, such as optical networking, pure interchangeability of equipment has been hard to come by.
The pursuit of openness was the motivation behind Huawei’s Protocol-Oblivious Forwarding (POF), Dustzadeh said. The technology, which Huawei has turned open-source, lets you mimic any packet-forwarding method by telling a switch how to interpret a packet header. In a sense, it moves a switch one stage closer to being a white box.
“You can reuse the same hardware for different purposes. You can do VXLAN on the fly; you can make that device do Trill the next day,” Dustzadeh said. “Some vendors might not be too enthusiastic about this model, because the margins they get on their existing devices might go away.”