By Mark Tassinari, HP Networking test engineer
Last month, the Open Networking Foundation (ONF) held a plug-fest event to bring together members to test and validate interoperability between their respective products and solutions. My colleague Benny Eggers and I attended the event in Santa Clara, CA.
I didn’t really know what to expect going into the event. We knew from experience that OpenFlow worked in our products because there are many customers using it but this was the first time we were going to have many vendors in one room. What could possibly go wrong? There was only one way to find out.
There was a wide range of representation from traditional networking vendors, OpenFlow controller vendors and other companies. The participation was outstanding and provided an opportunity for the technical experts to collaborate and network with each other.
What we learned about OpenFlow: change is coming
One of the key leanings for me that came out of the event was that OpenFlow and software-defined networking not only bring enormous potential to change how networks deliver applications and services to users more effectively, but that they are also going to change the way network administrators and technicians interact with the network.
Because software defined networks allow so much flexibility, traditional administration tools and troubleshooting methods will need to adapt to OpenFlow-based networks. You can’t always count on the rules we’ve used in the past to govern packet handling. At the same time, new tools that build on OpenFlow can open fresh approaches to diagnosing networking issues. Administrators won’t be limited by capabilities of standardized protocols and proprietary implementations.
Take for example, a small network of four devices. The standards and rules developed over the past 30 years help to set our expectations for how packets can get from one side to the other. If hosts on the edge can’t communicate the possibilities are generally understood. OpenFlow lets us bend or even erase those design rules that opens up more opportunities for things to go wrong. It also creates more ways to diagnose and fix problems. It’s very powerful.
Moving software-defined networks forward
Overall, the plug-fest was a successful event that brought together industry experts to help move software-defined networking technologies forward. It is refreshing to see many companies working together to build better solutions for our customers. These are exciting times for networking. we are sure to see game-changing innovations over the next several years.