Let’s not Kill Software Defined Networks with Standards but Let it Grow with Open Source Software


(T) I was interested to receive this month IEEE Computer Magazine “special edition” about Software Defined Networks (SDN). Unfortunately, the Magazine focused on describing the present efforts to standardize the emerging protocols in the southbound APIs between the devices and the controllers, and the northbound APIs between the applications and the controllers. Not my favorite topic!

SDN was a proposal from Martin Casado (the Ph.D. student), Nick McKeown (the professor) and Teemu Koponen (the network engineer) that has roots in Darpa Active Networks and programmable switching fabric. SDN changes fundamentally the network architecture. And those changes have been made possible because they were not defined through the standard organizations but were quickly adopted by large-scale providers of cloud services for their data centers.


The TCP/IP protocol, which started as a research project, became the foundation for the Internet while the two competing alternatives, the OSI protocol that was the fruit of the standardization process, and IBM SNA that was IBM’s vision to deploy networks, never got any market traction.

Standards usually slow down the creation of new technologies. Good technology will always find a path toward a useful application.

The initial concepts of SDN were embedded into the OpenFlow protocol (first proposed interface between the SDN controller and the forwarding plane). Since then, a lot of open source software have been started and are maturing such as OpenStack (cloud platform system software) and OpenDayLight (SDN controller platform), or more recently RouteFlow (virtualized IP routing) and Cardigan (SDN controller to an Internet exchange). And all of those open source protocols have led to the introduction of new commercial products from many networking vendors.



IEEE Computer Magazine, November 2014 Edition on Software Defined Networks
A Silicon Valley Insider, “Providing Large Scale Cloud Services by Virtualizing Network Services over Software Defined Networks

Note 1:
The two pictures in this article came from the article: ”When open source meets network control planes” from the IEEE Computer Magazine November 2014 Edition.

Note 2:
The picture above is a painting from Georges Braque – Les instruments de musique – property of Paris Beaubourg museum.

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Categories: Networking