& cplSiteName &

Compass Check: ONF & the Northbound API(s)

Dan Pitt
Column
Dan Pitt
11/6/2013
50%
50%

The Open Networking Foundation (ONF) turned a lot of heads in October with the announcement of a Northbound Interfaces (NBI) Working Group.

While we're always glad to draw more attention to the benefits of Software-Defined Networking (SDN), we want to be sure that the industry truly understands why we are looking north and how this new Working Group fits into the overall focus of Open Networking Foundation (ONF). This is especially important since we have been so vocal for more than two years about why we are not standardizing the northbound API. (Believe me, I've taken a lot of flak for that, but steadfastly resisted.)

ONF's mission is to accelerate the adoption of open SDN. To us, SDN includes both the OpenFlow substrate and the enablement of applications and services above it. This means that while our NBI Working Group is new, our work with the Northbound Interface is not.

Back in June 2011, we received an inquiry from another industry group asking if we planned to standardize the Northbound API. "Goodness, no," we replied, but we neglected to say why.

"Oh good," they replied. "Then we will."

Damage control included explaining why no one should, because:

  • No one had enough experience with OpenFlow controllers to know what to standardize
  • This period of innovative experimentation was important for learning and we did not want to stifle it
  • Anyone who tried would surely get it wrong
  • There won't be just one NBI anyway, and
  • That's not how software artifacts get standardized.

Fortunately, they listened.

Since then, the industry has built a considerable body of experience. With a solid OpenFlow substrate, the attention now shifts to include the software and services that the foundation enables. We have seen a greater demand from developers of application, orchestration, and management software for assistance in understanding NBIs as a critical component of a complete SDN solution.

So in the fall of 2012 we began looking at NBIs in the form of the Architecture and Framework Working Group's study of existing SDN use cases and controller interfaces, which are many. The large number of unique controller APIs indicates that there is no consensus yet on what makes the right NBI (and could also lead one to believe that they are not that hard to write). We will soon publish the first edition of our NBI study, cataloguing and comparing them.

While this proliferation of SDN controllers brings some valuable learning, it also creates confusion for those wanting to write to an NBI. Without stable interfaces to write to, overall adoption of SDN slows, and when we heard concerns from many in the ONF user population, we knew that we had to take action.

The question then became: What action should the ONF take? We have long said that software APIs are not typically standardized in advance by committees, because they don't have to be. Anyone can modify an (open) interface quickly; it's not like redesigning an ASIC. What we as an organization can do is bring clarity to the choices and their benefits, through both investigation and prototyping.

Therefore, ONF took the leap and chartered the NBI Working Group, which is evaluating Northbound Interfaces. Plural. That's an important distinction. The Working Group has already put together a chart showing how broad the topic is. Characterizing the different levels of abstraction as latitudes and the different use cases as longitudes, they starkly demonstrate the futility of imagining there being one, or "the," NBI.

Our first step will be to develop information models for Northbound Interfaces at different latitudes and longitudes with plans to prototype and gain market feedback on select examples. Again, examples -- plural.

What we don't plan to do is rush to a standard. ONF has spoken passionately about standards, and we have committed to standardizing only what is truly necessary. If the industry needs us to help them arrive at a standard for some use case, we will. Prominent among our members' requirements are for the interfaces they write to to be truly open and not vulnerable to the whims of a single vendor. Moreover, we suspect that a small number of NBIs will serve a large fraction of current market needs. Thus, one of the purposes of our NBI Working Group will be to determine if an NBI standard from a committee is needed by the market at this time.

ONF plans to publish its Northbound Interface information models in 2014, accompanied by open-source working code for select use cases. We will also continue to strengthen the OpenFlow substrate to make sure it offers great service to the software and services above the NBI.

As always, user needs remain our only compass.

— Dan Pitt, Executive Director, Open Networking Foundation

(1)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
sam masud
50%
50%
sam masud,
User Rank: Light Sabre
11/6/2013 | 2:33:21 PM
So what now?.
Dan,

Although it makes a lot of sense to have standard NBIs, I'm wondering whether having ONF standardize on the NBIs might slow the down the adoption of SDN. Also, curious as to what you would advise a customer who's considering deploying SDN--should they wait on the ONF's NBIs or go with whatever solutions are out there?

 
More Blogs from Column
In this final blog of a three-part series, Jeff Gordon examines what operators hope to gain from going down the converged service layer route.
SDN and NFV are more than just networking acquaintances, believes Open Networking Foundation (ONF) Executive Director Dan Pitt.
As niche OTT services abound, they could shatter the business model for the pay-TV industry's traditional fat bundles.
In the second of a three-part series, OpenCloud's Jeff Gordon delves deeper into the driving forces for adopting a converged service layer.
Edge computing is a compelling option for telcos looking to balance tightening finances with increasing demands for bandwidth and processing speed. 
From The Founder
The independent evaluation of Nokia's key virtual network functions (VNFs) was a defining moment for the Finnish giant.
Flash Poll
Live Streaming Video
Charting the CSP's Future
Six different communications service providers join to debate their visions of the future CSP, following a landmark presentation from AT&T on its massive virtualization efforts and a look back on where the telecom industry has been and where it's going from two industry veterans.
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
Nokia's Advancement Plan: Bring Old Skills to New Roles

6|29|16   |   7:57   |   (0) comments


Nokia's Sandy Motley advises women to change their mindsets; get aggressive about advancing their careers; develop strong, diverse support networks; and always bring forth learned skills to take on new challenges and different roles.
Between the CEOs
CEO Chat: Cisco's Yvette Kanouff

6|28|16   |     |   (0) comments


In Silicon Valley, Steve Saunders sits down with Cisco's Yvette Kanouff for an exclusive in-depth interview.
LRTV Interviews
Comcast: Prepping Next-Gen Video Services

6|28|16   |     |   (0) comments


In this LRTV interview, Comcast's Elad Nafshi outlines where MSO stands with cloud DVR, OTT video, college and gigabit services.
LRTV Custom TV
Energy 2020: Creating Unique Standards for Cable's Unique Networks

6|28|16   |   09:30   |   (0) comments


Cable's unique network requirements require a specific set of standards for operators to increase power efficiency, according to Dan Cooper, vice president of critical infrastructure for Charter Communications and chair of the SCTE/ISBE Standards Program's Energy Management Subcommittee, and Ian Oliver, managing director of the Trenchant Group and a member of the ...
LRTV Custom TV
Masergy: 'Now Is the Time for NFV'

6|28|16   |     |   (0) comments


Hear Ray Watson, VP of Global Technology at Masergy, talk about the advantages that enterprises can leverage using Network Function Virtualization (NFV), and how Masergy takes a unique approach to solving customers' problems. For more information on Masergy, please visit www.masergy.com.
LRTV Custom TV
Masergy Leads the Charge With NFV Capabilities

6|28|16   |     |   (0) comments


Hear Tim Naramore, CTO at Masergy, talk about how focusing on solving specific customer challenges, providing self-service automation tools and being laser focused on the customer experience has enabled Masergy to be a leader in the NFV space. For more information on Masergy, please visit www.masergy.com.
LRTV Custom TV
Private Company of the Year - Affirmed Networks

6|27|16   |     |   (0) comments


At BCE 2016, Steve Saunders speaks to Hassan Ahmed about Affirmed's success.
LRTV Custom TV
Energy 2020: Growing Services, Not Consumption

6|24|16   |   07:18   |   (0) comments


Management of power requirements needs to be a key consideration as cable operators deploy new services, says Dan Cooper, vice president of critical infrastructure for Charter Communications and chair of the SCTE/ISBE Standards Program's Energy Management Subcommittee. In this video, Cooper discusses the importance of cable operators and technology partners ...
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei & TDC First to Launch DOCSIS 3.1 Trial in Europe

6|24|16   |     |   (0) comments


To meet the rising demands for high-speed broadband and to tackle fierce competition for 1.5 million household, TDC wanted to upgrade its network to use the latest technology. Using Huawei's DOCSIS 3.1 solution, TDC is now able to offer gigabit speeds to its customers.
LRTV Documentaries
OPNFV Summit: Key Takeaways

6|22|16   |   03:28   |   (0) comments


MANO shortfalls, an increasingly bloated open source ecosystem and the cultural challenges for network operators were among the key takeaways from the OPNFV Summit in Berlin.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Bringing Ultra Broadband to the South Pacific

6|22|16   |   7:55   |   (0) comments


At Singapore's UBBS 2016 summit, Light Reading speaks to Lim Chee Siong, Huawei's CMO in the South Pacific Region.
LRTV Custom TV
Juniper's NFV Platform

6|22|16   |     |   (0) comments


A telco cloud is a key enabler for service providers to deliver virtualized services to their customers. Juniper has a differentiated approach with an open and comprehensive NFV platform to build the cloud of the future for multiple use cases.
Upcoming Live Events
September 13-14, 2016, The Curtis Hotel, Denver, CO
November 3, 2016, The Montcalm Marble Arch, London
November 30, 2016, The Westin Times Square, New York City
December 6-8, 2016,
May 16-17, 2017, Austin Convention Center, Austin, TX
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
A new survey conducted by Heavy Reading and TM Forum shows that CSPs around the world see the move to digital operations as a necessary part of their overall virtualization strategies.
Hot Topics
'Brexit' Vote Hits BT, Vodafone
Iain Morris, News Editor, 6/24/2016
AT&T Settles on LTE for Cellular IoT
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 6/22/2016
Qualcomm Readies Lower-Band 5G Testbed
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 6/27/2016
Brexit: It's Hard to See an Upside
Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-chief, 6/29/2016
Sigfox Said to Face Customer Backlash
Iain Morris, News Editor, 6/27/2016
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
In Silicon Valley, Steve Saunders sits down with Cisco's Yvette Kanouff for an exclusive in-depth interview.
At the BCE 2016 show in Austin, ECI Telecom CEO Darryl Edwards tells Light Reading founder and CEO about the Elastic Network concept and the company's NFV and cybersecurity developments.
Animals with Phones
Live Digital Audio

Our world has evolved through innovation from the Industrial Revolution of the 1740s to the information age, and it is now entering the Fourth Industrial Revolution, driven by technology. Technology is driving a paradigm shift in the way digital solutions deliver a connected world, changing the way we live, communicate and provide solutions. It can have a powerful impact on how we tackle some of the world’s most pressing problems. In this radio show, Caroline Dowling, President of Communications Infrastructure & Enterprise Computing at Flex, will join Women in Comms Director Sarah Thomas to discuss the impact technology has on society and how it can be a game-changer across the globe; improving lives and creating a smarter world. Dowling, a Cork, Ireland, native and graduate of Harvard Business School's Advanced Management Program, will also discuss her experience managing an international team focused on innovation in an age of high-speed change.