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ONF on OpFlex

Apr 3, 2014

ONF Executive Director Dan Pitt offers his thoughts on OpFlex, openness, and the southbound interface.

Many people have approached ONF for feedback on Cisco’s announcement of OpFlex. While some are making this a battle between standards, others are simply asking what the role could be for both OpFlex and OpenFlow® in SDN. While we’ll have some additional commentary on OpFlex in the days to come, I’d like to share a few thoughts with you now on the importance of being truly “open” and what we see as the essence of SDN.

ONF has long noted that it is committed to accelerating the adoption of open, multi-vendor SDN that gives network operators choice and flexibility. That said, I feel like we should be more specific about what being “open” means to us. Open doesn’t mean simply published and available; it also means not being controlled by a single party.

We at ONF also believe that the essence of SDN is the separation of control and forwarding, with logically-centralized control giving operators the consistent programming interface for security, policy, compliance, traffic engineering, path computation, and rapid service introduction they have been clamoring for. And with distributed data planes that become optimized high-performance, low-cost packet- and path-forwarding engines. The historical approaches to networking no longer meet operators’ needs, and the computing industry’s dramatic advances over the last fifteen years, including and especially in distributed computing, have demonstrated that a logically centralized approach does not result in a single point of failure.

We encourage innovation in SDN. Most importantly, we continue to encourage the industry to devote its resources to creating high value services above the southbound interface, especially in the logically centralized control, orchestration, and application layers, rather than perpetuating the approaches of the past and proposing yet more alternatives in what is already a well-populated space southward from these logically centralized functions.

– Dan Pitt, Executive Director