With the autumn news cycle kicking into gear, there’s plenty in the notebook about software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV). Here’s what we didn’t get to earlier in the week.
1. Cisco Worries About NFV White Boxes More Than SDN
Cisco CEO John Chambers took a coffee break with Barron’s, possibly previewing his Interop keynote on Wednesday. He acknowledged the threat of white-box switches, calling it one of Cisco’s biggest future obstacles. But he dismissed competitors Arista and VMware, characterizing Arista as just the latest in a long string of would-be usurpers and claiming VMware’s Nicira can’t scale.
He also mentioned Cisco has funded a radio startup for the wireless network — radio being one of the commoditized sectors Cisco hasn’t dared to touch yet. It would be interesting to see what angle Cisco thinks it’s found there.
2. OpenFlow 1.3 Starts Approaching the Network
Centec Networks, winners of the SDN Idol award in April, did indeed release its V350 reference design (or “open SDN platform,” if you prefer) less than six months after the 2013 Open Networking Summit, as per the contest rules. At its center is Centec’s flagship chip, the CTC5163 Ethernet switch nicknamed Greatbelt. The design is based on OpenFlow 1.3 and can support 64,000 flows without using external ternary content-addressable memory chips (TCAMs), Centec claims.
Elsewhere in OpenFlow 1.3 news, NEC updated its ProgrammableFlow switches this week, claiming to be the first vendor to reach general availability with an OpenFlow 1.3 controller. NEC also improved the controller’s scale to support 10,000 ports or 200 physical switches.
3. Pivotal’s PaaS Primed to Go Public
EMC does intend to take Pivotal public eventually, but it’s a long way off, EMC CEO Joe Tucci said during his Oracle OpenWorld keynote. Pivotal is the platform-as-a-service company launched by EMC and VMware in April; its platform still looks likely to arrive in the fourth quarter, according to The VAR Guy.
4. NFV Can Power the Service-Provider Edge
One reason carriers revved up the NFV initiative is because they’ve been thinking about that idea — moving functions onto commodity equipment — for some time. Cable operators, for instance, love the idea of generic set-top boxes that can be upgraded from a central point.
The same principle can apply to the service-provider edge. Edgewater is working along those lines and provided an example in a ConvergeDigest post recently, where Dave Martin, vice president of marketing, described an IP security architecture where the real work is done in the data center by virtual appliances.
5. Optical SDN Takes the Stage
With SDN dominating conferences, I expected it to be all over the European Conference on Optical Communication (ECOC) this week. It wasn’t as prominent as at the other big optical-networking conference, OFC/NFOEC, in March, but you could still find substantial mentions of the topic.
For example, SDN figured in the BT Group keynote, as Tim Whitley, managing director of research and innovation, noted that the fast provisioning of wavelengths could be a big help as data centers get more complex. (Fast provisioning is something the optical industry has promised for years, but mainly in a telecom context.)
The Optical Internetworking Forum (OIF) has been looking into the specifics of how to make that happen. On Monday, the group announced it’s finished a set of carrier requirements for the transport network under SDN. One element new to the optical world is the Orchestrator, an element that would coordinate actions between the data center and the transport network.
To help members delve more deeply into all this, the OIF is hosting a workshop, “Transport SDN: Cutting Through the Hype ‐ Enabling Technologies, Practical Use Cases, and Apps,” on Feb. 10 in San Jose, Calif.
On the product front, Polatis introduced the Series 6000 Lite, a 48-port all-optical switch with an OpenFlow interface. It’s due to ship in the first quarter of 2014. By “all-optical,” we mean the signal isn’t translated into electronic form such as Ethernet packets. Calient does similar all-optical work, and its work with Plexxi shows how that can apply to a software-defined data center.