June 18, 2012, 3:49 PM — With its ability to decouple network control from the physical infrastructure, OpenFlow and software-defined networks have been touted as the Next Big Thing in networking. They've been pitched as a way for cloud service providers and webscale companies like Google, Facebook and Yahoo to ease or automate network configuration and reconfiguration, and quickly add more functionality without manually touching each and every switch or router in the network.
Such companies can use OpenFlow and SDNs to reroute traffic, balance traffic loads, provide bandwidth on demand for peak requirements, execute policies to scale and segregate the networks of different data center or cloud tenants, and connect subscribers to content and services.
INQUIRING MINDS WANT TO KNOW: What is OpenFlow and why is it needed?
OpenFlow and SDNs have also been coronated as "Cisco Killers" due to the ability to abstract network configuration and extensibility from vendor-specific hardware and software commands, ostensibly relegating Cisco switches to Just Another Device status in a network and freeing customers from vendor lock-in. But Cisco just announced its own programmability initiative through its Cisco ONE architecture and onePK software development kit (see related story) and Insieme Networks is building a line of programmable switches for the company.
Actually, there are several, vendors in the OpenFlow/SDN/network virtualization arena say.
"Our primary focus is the enterprise market," says Kyle Forster, co-founder of Big Switch Networks, a maker of OpenFlow controllers for SDNs. Big financial and technology companies are trailblazers with OpenFlow, he says.