OpenFlow has a lot of backers, a veritable Who's Who in the industry, in the ONF. Founders include Deutsche Telekom, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Verizon and Yahoo; non-founding members include Cisco, Brocade, Juniper Networks, HP, Broadcom, Ciena, Riverbed Technology, Force10, Citrix, Dell, Ericsson, IBM, Marvell, NEC, Netgear, NTT and VMware.
Brocade will offer OpenFlow on its switches later this year, says Ken Cheng, vice president of service provider products at the company. The company is exploring the technology as a way to manage "hyperscale" in a data center that has hundreds and thousands of racks of equipment. Brocade is also evaluating OpenFlow as a method for flow management on the WAN, and to better control virtualization in a data center.
"We have MAC addresses in the millions, potentially" from virtualization, Cheng says. "That scale is beyond what any reasonably constructed switches can comprehend."
Some Brocade competitors and fellow ONF members are a bit more bearish on OpenFlow, though. Force10 is waiting for the technology to mature a little bit more before offering it in its switches, says Chief Marketing Officer Arpit Joshipura.
"We have to make sure that all the specifications that were originally not scalable are scalable," Joshipura says. "Big network users are more interested in this today than traditional enterprises."
And still others outside the ONF say OpenFlow may be reinventing the wheel.
"We did 'experiment' with such an architecture already in the early '90s, where we tried to centralize flow setup decisions centrally with a system called SecureFast VNS Virtual Network Server," says Markus Nispel, chief technology strategist at Enterasys Networks, a Siemens Enterprise Communications company. "Due to scalability problems this ended up in a released product/architecture called SecureFast which used a distributed flow setup and was also connection-oriented switching leveraging 'OSPF on L2' as the topology protocol. Which gave us ... active Layer 2 meshing in 1996.