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Putting OpenFlow to the Test

Ray Le Maistre
1/25/2013

Network operators keen for verifiable data about technology products that support software-defined networking (SDN) architectures should have a few more questions answered in 2013 as independent labs put various technologies to the test and OpenFlow conformance testing resources become available. The Open Networking Foundation, the industry body set up to promote SDN and the OpenFlow protocol, has already held a couple of "plugfests," the most recent of which was held in October 2012. But this year looks set to have a broader set of reference points for operators and systems integrators to get their teeth into. German independent test lab European Advanced Networking Test Center AG (EANTC) is creating a test network that will include OpenFlow and Path Computation Element (PCE) solutions interfacing with non-SDN Carrier Ethernet and MPLS elements as part of its annual multivendor interoperability test, which takes place over a three-week period in February at the lab's facilities in Berlin. (See SDN Added to Interop Test.) In addition, the ONF is in the process of developing a conformance testing program that will enable systems and software vendors to become certified against the ONF's OpenFlow specifications. ONF executive director Dan Pitt tells Light Reading that the ONF is currently working with the Indiana Center for Network Translational Research and Education (InCNTRE) at Indiana University to develop test cases that can be developed and used for OpenFlow conformance testing and that those cases should be completed and the InCNTRE ready to begin conformance testing by the middle of this year. Pitt says that the test cases will be available for other test labs to use and that the ONF will be working with other test facilities in order to run conformance programs, thereby avoiding a monopoly situation (and potential bottleneck) by only having one certification lab. It's likely that by the time the test cases are ready there will be quite a few more OpenFlow products available for network planners to consider: Pitt says that, to date, more than 64 OpenFlow products have shipped and more than 30 million OpenFlow ports are in deployment (though not necessarily "live"). Another area of focus for Pitt is to get more insight into how telcos might consider deploying SDN capabilities. To that end he is in discussions with the carrier-led Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) group that recently met in France. (See Carriers Peer Into Virtual World.) "We've talked about how the two organizations might be able to help each other -- our efforts are complementary," says Pitt. "We're keen to know about the carriers' goals. Which SDN elements matter the most to them? It'll be interesting to see what their priorities are." Another industry body with which the ONF has engaged is the International Telecommunication Union, Standardization Sector (ITU-T) -- "we are creating a formal relationship ... we want to avoid duplication of efforts" -- but the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) is not a body that Pitt sees as a potential ally. "We think differently about the network," he states. -- Ray Le Maistre, International Managing Editor, Light Reading

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