The industry is still catching up to OpenFlow 1.3, so OpenFlow 1.4 is a rare bird indeed. Pica8-based switches might be the only ones at the plugfest supporting OpenFlow 1.4, says Steve Garrison, the company’s vice president of marketing.
Other OpenFlow 1.4 pieces likely to be at the plugfest include the Ryu and FlowForwarding.org controllers, he says.
Pica8 is taking this occasion to point out a few of its features in OpenFlow 1.4 that it considers particularly useful:
- The ability to bundle together a set of changes, so they can be promulgated to large parts of the network at once.
- A ternary CAM (TCAM) eviction and vacancy feature that can act as an early warning as memory starts running out of space. Avoiding those nearly full memories would be a good means of congestion control, Garrison notes.
- High availability extensions, to supplement the high availability features in OpenFlow 1.3. Here’s one specific trick: the ability for a switch to talk to a controller that’s in a different logical domain of the network. It’s meant to be an emergency feature, a last-ditch effort that can boost the resiliency of the control fabric. “We’re getting close to the point of any-switch-to-any-controller,” Garrison says.
OpenFlow 1.4 is just one part of the PicOS 2.3 release that’s launching today. A separate feature Pica8 is touting is a graphical interface for setting up the Open vSwitch database (OVSDB), a component that’s important because Pica8 uses Open vSwitch (OVS) to execute OpenFlow actions.
The idea is to make OpenFlow a little easier for engineers steeped in traditional networking. “For guys who used OVS on the server side for virtual machine management, they [already] get it. For guys coming from a pure networking side, this can help them,” Garrison says.
Pica8 is also taking the occasion to talk up a feature that’s been in PicOS for a while — namely, the ability to stuff twice as many packet headers as usual into ternary CAMs (TCAMs). Memory, specifically in TCAM form, is another important component in most implementations of OpenFlow. Certain information from packet headers gets saved into TCAMs, and Pica8’s trick is to eliminate certain duplicate entries, thus saving space.
Like Cumulus Networks, Pica8 is pioneering the market for bare-metal switching, providing the operating system and switch software to run on various vendors’ hardware. The initial target was low-cost hardware from Taiwanese ODMs, but Cumulus has also struck a partnership that will put its software onto Dell machines.