Other vendors appear to be taking different approaches to SDN, though it's not yet clear what form all the offerings will take, according to Infonetics Research analyst Michael Howard. For example, Cisco Systems says its One Platform Kit (OnePK) will be a set of 710 APIs (application programming interfaces) for software developers to take advantage of features in Cisco network gear. None of these systems can afford to lock out all other brands, Howard said.
"To do SDN, you really have to make your software be able to work in a multivendor environment" because that's what's out there in the real world, Howard said. OnePK might make others do more of the work to tie all the pieces together, but it won't force users to buy only Cisco gear, he said. Cisco says its network equipment will work with OpenFlow, a widely accepted common denominator for SDN, while OnePK and the rest of the Cisco ONE (Open Network Environment) architecture offer broader virtualization capabilities.
Alcatel compares VSP's operation to cellular roaming, which begins when a cellphone identifies itself to a carrier when it's turned on in a new location. Based on the phone's identity and the subscriber's service plan, the carrier then makes the right services available to that phone in the new location.
With VSP, when a VM is moved from one physical server to another, a Virtual Routing and Switching (VRS) agent on the server will detect the change and collect information about the VM. The VRS will tell the Virtual Services Controller about the newly arrived VM, and the controller will refer to the Virtual Services Directory for the correct routing, switching and security settings for it, said Lindsay Newell, head of marketing for Alcatel's Networks and Platforms group. For example, a given VM might be set to communicate only with other VMs from the same business unit.
Where most SDN platforms can only control Layer 2 switching, VSP can also modify Layer 3 routing settings and Layer 4 security filters, eliminating more manual configuration steps, Newell said. It sets up direct virtual tunnels between VMs and makes networks 40 percent more efficient, according to Alcatel.
VSP can even set up tunnels across a carrier's IP network, taking advantage of standard MPLS (Multiprotocol Label Switching) and again staying compatible with existing infrastructure, Newell said. This capability can be useful for hybrid clouds, in which a carrier's cloud resources supplement an enterprise's own private cloud during peak activity times, Newell said.
Service providers are already asking for virtualization systems that will span networks and data centers, Infonetics' Howard said.