In 2011, NEC introduced its ProgrammableFlow Networking Suite. It was the first commercially available software-defined network (SDN) product to use the OpenFlow protocol as the NEC OpenFlow ProgrammableFlow Controller. It enabled full network virtualization and empowered enterprises, data centers, and service providers to deploy, control, monitor, and manage multi-tenant network frameworks easily from a single console.
Central to the ProgrammableFlow family of products is the ProgrammableFlow Controller. As an SDN Controller, it acts as the “brains” of the network. It is the strategic control point in the SDN network, relaying information to the switches/routers ‘below’ (via southbound APIs) and the applications and business logic ‘above’ (via northbound APIs). The separation of the control plane from the network’s forwarding plane allows for network-wide virtualization, an important factor in SDN environments.
ProgrammableFlow Controller Background
NEC has a long history with open source. In 2009, it contributed its first SDN Controller, Trema, to the source community. The next year, early adoption of the ProgrammableFlow Controller began with the use of a hybrid OpenFlow switch. In 2011, NEC became a founding member of the Open Networking Foundation (ONF), and in 2012, the ProgrammableFlow Controller won its first award, the Best of Show at Interop. In 2013, NEC became a Gold member of the OpenDaylight Project. Due to its security features, the controller was a finalist in the SDN-IDOL competition in 2015. The ProgrammableFlow controller isolates the hacked host, sends the IT administrator an alert of the situation, and proceeds to remove the virus attacking the host. In the same year, the controller became compatible with Dell’s S-Series Switches, which together, creates a high-performing Ethernet fabric.
NEC ProgrammableFlow Controller PF6800
Fast forward to today, the latest NEC ProgrammableFlow Controller (PFC) is model number PF6800. It features drag-and-drop network configuration, it’s centrally figurable for enterprise campus networks, and it employs OpenFlow to direct switches. As an alternative for networks that rely on legacy switches that do not support OpenFlow, the latest controller offers Edge Automation to extend SDN functions to those legacy switches. Edge Automation employs legacy protocols, such as CLI, to direct and control the legacy switches.
The PFC offers a third mode of operation in addition to the OSF and the Edge Automation, called Hybrid Mode, which uses a combination of both OSF and Edge Automation. It possesses a fully virtualized core with edge automation utilizing legacy switches.