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The ongoing SDN race

Teresa Leung (Computerworld HK) | Oct. 4, 2013
Some of the larger vendors that were seen as slow in the SDN race--compared to some of the smaller firms--took the wraps off their offerings one after another in the past few months.

Some of the larger vendors that were seen as slow in the SDN race—compared to some of the smaller firms—took the wraps off their offerings one after another in the past few months.

In August, Huawei launched its SDN-programmable S12700 Agile switch series, touting it as a next-generation product designed for managing campus networks.

The firm said its Agile switch is designed with its own Ethernet network processor that can handle different software tasks. It also claimed that the product will offer better performance over rival switches built with application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) chips, but at a still affordable low price.

The big boys tackle SDN
In less than two months' time, both Juniper and Cisco also unveiled their SDN offerings. Juniper announced the availability of Juniper Networks Contrail, a network virtualization and intelligence SDN offering in mid-September. Contrail comprises all the components needed to create a virtual overlay network: SDN controller, vRouter, and analytics engine, the firm said.

Cyberport in Hong Kong, according to Juniper, is one of the organizations that evaluated Contrail. Cyberport CTO David Chung said the organization expects Contrail to provide seamless integration with its existing network.

Hard on the heels of Juniper, Cisco introduced the Cisco Network Convergence System (NCS) a week later. NCS is a network fabric family designed to serve as the foundation of a massively scalable, smarter and more adaptable Internet, said Cisco, adding that the system's programmability and virtualization capabilities enable service providers to accelerate the transition to SDN and network function virtualization.

SDN isn't new
Despite these vendors' recent push and the debate around the acronym in the past year, SDN isn't something new.

"The separation of the control plane [which makes decisions about where traffic is sent] and the forwarding plane [which forwards traffic to a selected destination] in SDN was developed more than 10 years ago, said Liu Shaowei, president, Huawei Enterprise Networking Product Line at Huawei Enterprise Networking Congress 2013 held in Shanghai early this year. "And that's only a small part of the SDN framework."

According to him, traditional networks are horizontally open and standardized while every network element can interconnect with neighboring nodes. But in the vertical direction, a network is closed and structureless, making it difficult to develop applications and deploy services vertically, he added.

"SDN helps realize vertical openness, standardization, and programmability on the entire network," said Liu. "This allows users to efficiently and conveniently access network resources."

SDN isn't OpenFlow
All these sound like OpenFlow. While SDN leverages OpenFlow capabilities, they aren't the same, said Douglas Murray, senior VP, Asia Pacific, Japan & Greater China, Juniper. "OpenFlow is a communications interface between the control and forwarding layers, while SDN is an architecture," he said.


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