What is OpenFlow?

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Interested in learning more about Software-defined Networking (SDN)? Check out our SDN Topic page. It’s filled with current SDN articles, white papers, videos and other resources curated by experts on SDNCentral.

OpenFlow is considered one of the first software-defined networking (SDN) standards. It originally defined the communication protocol in SDN environments that enables the SDN/OpenFlow Controller to interact with the forwarding plane and make adjustments to the network, so it can better adapt to changing business requirements.

An SDN Controller in SDN is the “brains” of the SDN network, relaying information to  switches/routers ‘below’ (via southbound APIs) and the applications and business logic ‘above’ (via northbound APIs). Recently, as organizations deploy more SDN networks, SDN Controllers have been tasked with federating between SDN Controller domains, using common application interfaces, like OpenFlow and open virtual switch database (OVSDB).

To work in and OpenFlow environment, any device that wants to communicate to an SDN/OpenFlow Controller must support the standard OpenFlow protocol. Through this interface, the SDN Controller pushes down changes to the switch/router flow-table allowing network administrators to partition traffic, control flows for optimal performance, and start testing new configurations and applications.

Flow-Table Entries That Can Be Manipulated in an OpenFlow Switch

Table Entries that can be Manipulated in an OpenFlow Switch

History of OpenFlow

The original concept for OpenFlow begun at Stanford University in 2008. By December 2009, Version 1.0 of the OpenFlow switch specification was released. Since its inception, OpenFlow has been managed by the Open Networking Foundation (ONF), a user-led organization dedicated to open standards and SDN adoption.

Since its release, multiple companies have announced OpenFlow support. Groups like the OpenDaylight Project support OpenFlow, and even provide OpenDaylight Controllers. Other companies like Cisco and Brocade also offer OpenFlow-enabled controllers, with Cisco XNC and Brocade Vyatta Controller.

Additional OpenFlow Resources:

What is an OpenFlow Controller?

Comprehensive List of SDN Controllers and Vendors

Comprehensive List of Open Source SDN Controllers

SDN, NFV, and Network Virtualization Define the Wave of New IP

What is Cisco OpenFlow?

What is Cisco OpFlex?