The Unified Network Coordinator is being announced today along with version 5.1 of the company’s ProgrammableFlow networking software. Both are being demonstrated at the Open Networking Summit, which starts today in Santa Clara, Calif.
The UNC manages 10 of NEC’s OpenFlow controllers as one. On paper, that means NEC’s ProgrammableFlow architecture can do everything at a scale 10 times bigger than before. One logical controller can now manage 2,000 switches, whereas a single ProgrammableFlow controller can handle just 200.
It’s not the first time a distributed approach has been used to get software-defined networking (SDN) to scale. Contrail, now owned by Juniper, also uses a distributed approach, albeit in a different form; Contrail distributes virtual routers and sends them forwarding tables that are kept in a central location.
NEC envisions its federated controllers being used in the WAN, orchestrating the connections among multiple data centers. Operators would be aided by a visualization tool that presents the topology information gleaned by OpenFlow.
The challenge (which of course NEC claims to have mastered) lies in keeping the distributed controllers consistent with each other. They have to have the same knowledge of network state and the same configurations.
UNC uses the virtual tenant network (VTN) technology that NEC contributed to the OpenDaylight Project. VTN creates sub-networks that have their own MAC addresses and VLANs; UNC can manage those entities for multiple domains.
UNC will be available around the end of April.
Separately, ProgrammableFlow 5.1 adds some more functions to NEC’s OpenFlow 1.3 support. Although NEC was the first company to launch a commercial OpenFlow 1.3 controller, it didn’t pack every last feature of version 1.3.
The specific OpenFlow 1.3 functions supported in ProgrammableFlow 5.1 are: extended VLAN mode (so that 10,000 VLANs can be supported), VLAN autoconfiguration, IP multicast, quality-of-service (QoS) policing, and the fast detection of a downed Ethernet link.