Big Switch Networks announced its Open Software-Defined Networking (Open SDN™) architecture today. SDN has generated a lot of interest over the last few months and we have seen increasing amounts of SDN-washing with vendors taking existing solutions off their shelves, dusting them off and rebranding them SDN. While these typically help established players preserve the networking status quo, these implementations are usually based on older approaches unfortunately not designed with network programmability in mind. So it felt like the right time to release Open SDN and bring back focus on the original promises of SDN.

The Software-Defined Network and OpenFlow movement started a few years ago in leading university research labs. The goal was to make networks as programmable as computers by creating an x86-like networking set of instructions to build upon. End users such as Google, Yahoo!, Facebook, AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, and Verizon (to name a few) immediately saw value in simplifying their operations as well as innovating on top of their existing infrastructure. They created the Open Networking Foundation (ONF) to standardize all necessary components.

The three pillars of the Open SDNTM architecture are meant to ensure that we deliver on the original promise of SDN.

Open SDN figure1

An Open SDN architecture relies on Open Standards to manage and control physical and virtual networks. Thanks to OpenFlow, a mix of hypervisor and physical infrastructure vendors can be deployed and programmed via a simple unified interface. But “open standards” means more than OpenFlow. Our Open SDN ™ architecture also emulates traditional network behaviors, e.g. network segmentation achieved with VLANs, MPLS VPNs or Amazon EC2 Security Groups, to seamlessly integrate with existing environments giving end users the ability to pace the deployment of SDN in their network.

The second criterion to consider is Open APIs to allow for more customization, more innovation and combination of best-of-breed applications in the Open SDN ecosystem. While OpenFlow provides a solid foundation for the core networking features, Open APIs allow additional functionality between the SDN controller and networking infrastructure. More critically, Open APIs between controller and application serve as a foundation for the SDN ecosystem. For instance, a network management application will be able to identify bottlenecks in the network and leverage SDN capabilities via the open APIs to take action and automatically make appropriate changes on the forwarding plane to improve performance.

Last but least: Open Source. We launched Floodlight in January and over the last month, we have witnessed more than a thousand downloads as well as contributions from all around the world. Floodlight is the core engine of our commercial solution and interoperates with many other open source solutions such as Indigo (firmware to OpenFlow-enable physical switches), or OpenvSwitch (virtual switch). Just like with any major software breakthrough such as Hadoop or OpenStack, SDN comes with a strong open source community that helps the technology mature, enables fast iterative innovation, and offers a sort of insurance program. Indeed if a company adopting an open SDN architecture wants features to be developed faster than the current roadmap of its SDN provider, they can use any 3rd party vendor or internal resources to integrate with the open APIs or build on the open source core engine.

Thanks to the combination of Open Standards, Open APIs and Open Source, an Open SDNTM architecture ensures companies get all the benefits of SDN: more vendor independence, more innovation, reduced time to operations and better investment protection.