When the SDN revolution kicked off with the invention of OpenFlow in the 2008-2009 timeframe, much of the development took place among a group of engineers at Stanford University. OpenFlow version 1.0 was released in 2009 and was substantially updated with the release of 1.3 in 2012. The Open Networking Foundation (ONF), a user-led organization focused on SDN, now manages the OpenFlow standard.
OpenFlow become part of many Software-defined networking (SDN) protocols and software elements — of which the SDN controller is possibly the most important. The controller is the “brains” of any SDN or NV system, collecting monitoring and analytics data and then sending instructions to networking hardware to set up flows or networking paths. Nicira, a startup that was acquired by VMware for $1.3 billion in 2012, is widely acknowledged to have developed the first SDN controller, called NOX, which later evolved into a controller called ONIX.
After the Nicira acquisition, the market for SDN controller products developed rapidly. The next wave of controllers was brought about by the wide circulation of open source projects. As discussed in this report, many open source controller projects exist, including Floodlight and Beacon. ODL and ONOS, detailed in this report, are two of the most popular open source projects to develop in this area.
These open source offerings serve as the basis of many controllers, even though many larges vendors such as Cisco, Brocade, HPE, Huawei, and VMware now ship their own commercial controllers. The idea is that even if a company ships its own controller software, it will be interoperable with some of the open source components.
As detailed in our report above, however, the SDN controller products in the space can be large and confusing. Purchasers should focus on the level of support and interoperability they might get with a product, especially if it is commercial. SDN Controllers should support key elements such as northbound APIs and southbound protocols such as OpenFlow, OVSDB, Netconf, and/or BGP. Recent reports from the field indicate that lack of interoperability is one of the common things that is frustrating end users in this market, so particular attention should be paid to this.
- Big Switch Networks Big Cloud Fabric
- Brain4Net: B4N Controller
- Brocade: Brocade SDN Controller
- Ciena: Blue Planet SDN/NFV Orchestration Platform
- Cisco Systems: Cisco Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC)
- Coriant: Coriant Transcend SDN Solution
- Dell: Dell Active Fabric Manager
- ECI: LightCONTROL
- Extreme Networks: Extreme Networks OneController
- Fujitsu: Virtuora Network Controller
- *Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE): HPE Carrier SDN
- Hewlett Packard Enterprise: HPE Distributed Cloud Networking (DCN)
- *Huawei: Huawei Agile Controller
- Inocybe Technologies: Inocybe Open Networking Platform
- *Juniper Networks: Juniper Contrail Networking
- Midokura: Midokura Enterprise MidoNet
- NEC ProgrammableFlow Controller PF6800
- Open Networking Foundation (ONF): Atrium
- Open Networking Lab (ON.LAB): Open Network Operating System (ONOS)
- OpenDaylight Project: Beryllium (Be)
- Plexxi Inc: Plexxi Control
- *Sonus Networks: VellOS