Pica8 is adding OpenFlow 1.4 support for its white-box switches, providing improvements for distributing control over the network, traffic management, and high availability.
The upgrades are the latest step in "the whole march to SDN," according to Pica8 Inc. VP marketing Steve Garrison. "This is a proof-of-concept year. We're past the paper stage. Most of the customers are in the phase of developing a value proposition and building a business case." That requires building actual, working software-defined networks. (See Defining SDN & NFV.)
Pica8 claims to be the first company to get OpenFlow 1.4 into products. "Most of our competitors are still talking about launching 1.3 next year, or they're talking about OpenFlow 1.0," Garrison says. Indeed, Brocade added OpenFlow 1.3 support in early March. (See Brocade Bridges SDN & MPLS.)
The software is a free upgrade with existing products and will be standard on new white-box switches.
New features include:
Distributed management: This provides the ability for complex networks to make decisions locally and centrally, and distribute those decisions throughout the systems.
It's been a misconception about OpenFlow-based SDN networks that they're managed at a single location, Garrison says. "We draw a slide and show a central controller, and everyone looks at that and says it looks like a single point of failure."
In reality, OpenFlow networks have controllers throughout the network, and OpenFlow 1.4 does a better job of distributing changes throughout the network fabric. Network managers can create a recipe for changing configuration, and distribute those changes efficiently throughout the network. Using mini-controllers located directly on the switch, devices have a limited degree of autonomy in normal conditions, and can yell for help (though not literally) to a central controller if conditions change outside expected parameters.
Managing traffic and congestion: OpenFlow 1.4 improves memory allocation on switches, adding timeouts and alerts, header management, and eviction and vacancy to manage switch capacity.
High availability: Previous to Version 1.4, you could have two controllers and two switches acting as failovers for each other, and now you can have many-to-many failovers for improved robustness.
Pica8, which introduced a new switch in February -- see Pica8 Adds Muscle to ABC – 'Anybody But Cisco' -- is one of a cadre of Silicon Valley startups focused on the pure SDN model
networks based on whitebox switches running on white-box servers. Others include Cumulus Networks and Big Switch Networks . The latter just had a big week, naming a new VP worldwide sales and signing a deal to supply its Switch Light operating system with Dell switches. (See Big Switch Poaches Sales VP From Juniper and Open Season: Dell Taps Into Big Switch.
Want to learn more about SDN and the transport network? Check out the agenda for Light Reading's Big Telecom Event (BTE), which will take place on June 17 and 18 at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers. The event combines the educational power of interactive conference sessions devised and hosted by Heavy Reading's experienced industry analysts with multi-vendor interoperability and proof-of-concept networking and application showcases. For more on the event, the topics, and the stellar service provider speaker lineup, see Telecommunication Luminaries to Discuss the Hottest Industry Trends at Light Reading's Big Telecom Event in June.