Brocade today announced plans to introduce OpenFlow 1.3 support across its IP routing and switching portfolio to help service providers build hybrid networks that combine software-defined networking (SDN) with regular MPLS-based networking.
Early versions of OpenFlow, a protocol that enables an external controller (such as software running on a server) to send routing decisions into the network, were mainly deployed in research and education networks, but OpenFlow 1.3 will help production networks introduce SDN, with support for quality-of-service controls, IPv6, and more, according to Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD), which is discussing its OpenFlow 1.3 strategy at the Open Networking Summit conference in Santa Clara, Calif., this week.
The introduction of support for OpenFlow 1.3 on routers and switches will allow service providers to combine SDN and traditional routing/switching capabilities on the same port or device, according to Mike Schiff, Brocade product marketing manager, in an interview. "We understand customers aren't going to move to a complete SDN environment right away," he said. "They're going to use OpenFlow and SDN for new applications, and the rest of the network will operate in traditional routing [mode]."
Countering distributed denial-of-service (DDOS) attacks is one important use for the new switches and routers equipped with OpenFlow 1.3., according to Schiff. DDOS attacks have evolved in recent years, he noted, with many recent attacks being long-lived (lasting tens of seconds), high-bandwidth affairs across Layer 3 or Layer 4 of a network. "They're not being detected and mitigated by traditional DDOS detection devices," Schiff said. SDN capabilities, however, enable a controller to reconfigure the forwarding settings of a switch so that packets are dropped on a particular flow, curbing the impact of a DDOS attack quickly and efficiently. "We see this as an opportunity for SDN to solve a real-world [issue] today," said Schiff.
The products are good fit for service providers, which have large MPLS investments they will not want to scrap, stated IDC analyst Nav Chander.
"This is appealing to both the Web 2.0 companies, where Brocade is getting some good traction, and it is also useful for the service providers," he said. "They're not going to rip and replace and put in OpenFlow networks, because OpenFlow might not yet be developed enough."
To start with, service providers are deploying OpenFlow-based platforms for new virtualized services, and using existing MPLS capabilities for regular network connectivity, noted Chander. In evaluating the new technology, users will be concerned about manageability, including ease of set-up and custom configuration, he addded.
Brocade will support OpenFlow 1.3 on its MLXe, CER, and CES products from June, with current customers able to upgrade at no additional cost. ICX and VDx products are currently OpenFlow-enabled in hardware, with software support later this year: ICX products will get OpenFlow 1.3 support in October, followed by VDx switches before the end of the year.
Support for OpenFlow 1.3 is part of Brocade's strategy to dive deeper into the datacenter and service provider markets, a move that helped improve the company's first-quarter earnings. (See Brocade's Datacenter Push Paying Off)
Brocade has been putting muscle behind its SDN drive too, poaching Benson Schliesser, formerly of Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) and Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), as distinguished engineer. (See Brocade Poaches Key SDN Exec From Juniper)
Brocade is also announcing two new hardware products for the MLXe core router -- a 2-port 100 GigE module and a 20-port 10 GigE module.
For more coverage of these issues, check out our SDN/NFV content track.
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