Google Uses OpenFlow Massively
Building things quickly and a tolerance for risk are central to the Google aesthetic, and that's how OpenFlow got into the mix, said Hölzle, the company's senior vice president of technical infrastructure. Google started implementing OpenFlow in 2010 -- before the existence of the Open Networking Foundation (ONF), the organization now in charge of the standard.
OpenFlow is a software defined networking (SDN) protocol that lets an external controller feed route information into switches. In theory, it lets operators (or automated processes) make changes quickly, creating a more fluid network.
The main benefit has been cost savings: It's cheaper to run the network this way. The network can fix itself, meaning less monitoring and intervention are needed.
Hölzle doesn't have numbers to prove that, but he thinks he's clearly come out ahead with the OpenFlow bet. "Even though it's early in the process, it's stable, and it's definitely meeting our requirements," he said.
His mention of the homemade 10Gbit/s Ethernet switches was Google's first public admission of building such systems, something that analyst Andrew Schmitt, now with Infonetics Research Inc. , uncovered about five years ago. (See Google's 10-GigE Assault.)
The switches Hölzle was talking about were a new batch, built because Google couldn't find a commercial switch with OpenFlow ports. Now that OpenFlow has become hip, with products available from companies like HP Inc. (NYSE: HPQ) and NEC Corp. (Tokyo: 6701), that might change.
"There's nothing special [to our switch]. It's a 10Gbit/s switch, lots of ports," he said. "I would have loved to be able to buy this, and I'm confident I can this year or next year."
— Craig Matsumoto, Managing Editor, Light Reading