Simply put, Open vSwitch Database (OVSDB) is a management protocol in a software-defined networking (SDN) environment. OVSDB was created by the Nicira team that was later acquired by VMware. Originally, was part of Open vSwitch (OVS), which is a feature-rich, open source virtual switch designed for Linux-based hypervisors. Most network devices allow for remote configuration using legacy protocols, such as simple network management protocol (SNMP). The focus with OVS was to create a modern, programmatic management protocol interface – OVSDB was the answer.
Figure 3 – Source: http://tools.ietf.org/html/draft-pfaff-ovsdb-proto-00
While it’s sometimes assumed OpenFlow can do it all, this is not the case. For SDN Controller deployments with OVS, OpenFlow is still used to program flow entries, but OVSDB is used to configure the OVS, itself. Configuring OVS means doing things like creating/deleting/modifying bridges, ports, and interfaces. If OVS is deployed in a standalone environment, there is no reason OVSDB can’t be used by itself to configure OVS (non-OpenFlow environment). While this is possible, very few standalone network management platforms really exist that support OVS or specifically, native OVSDB.
While OVSDB was introduced to the world, along with OVS, the Open vSwitch Database is now supported by more switch platforms, other than OVS. It is now being supported by network vendors, such as Cumulus, Arista, and Dell, just to name a few. By supporting the Open vSwitch Database, these vendors are integrating their hardware platforms with SDN and network virtualization solutions.