Cisco ONE Software Controller augments SDN Strategy

Earlier this week Cisco announced plans to release the Cisco One Software Controller. This is a long awaited announcement since Cisco has been relatively quiet and slow about their Software Defined Networking (SDN) strategy. Over the last few months, SDN has built up a lot of steam with Juniper, HP and Brocade sharing their ideas, strategy and solutions around SDN. Many including myself, wondered why Cisco (the networking giant) had taken their time to reveal updated plans or solutions.  The Cisco ONE Software Controller is designed to interface with both One Platform Kit (onePK) and OpenFlow enabled devices. If you are not too familiar with SDN, I encourage you to read up on it. At a very high level SDN is all about abstracting the capabilities of the network from the networking hardware itself.

From the news release: (ref no. 1)

 A new Cisco ONE Software Controller supports a highly available, scalable and extensible architecture; the industry’s first multiprotocol interfaces with One Platform Kit (onePK) and OpenFlow; consistent management, troubleshooting and security features; and built-in applications that include network slicing functionality for enabling logical partitioning of network resources. In addition, the ONE Controller will interact with Cisco networking applications such as Custom Forwarding and Network Tapping.”

Cisco One SDN Approach

In June 2012, Cisco announced their “Open Network Environment to Unleash Application-Driven Network Programmability”

The Cisco ONE approach is designed to provide multi-layered programmability throughout the network. With typical SDN strategy, implementations are about the separation of the control and forwarding planes.  This is where Cisco is trying to set themselves aside from the rest of the pack. Cisco’s has a different and more ambitious approach where they want to look at network services, transport and management.

From the news release: (ref no.2)

“As part of the Open Network Environment, Cisco announced One Platform Kit (onePK) which provides application programming interfaces (APIs) for developers across Cisco operating systems: Cisco IOS ®, IOS-XR, and NX-OS. Cisco also announced proof-of-concept controller software and proof-of-concept OpenFlow agent for Software Defined Networking (SDN) research.  Cisco is also enabling scalable virtual overlay networks for multi-tenant cloud deployments with the Cisco Nexus® 1000V virtual switch. New innovations include: OpenStack support, programmability, multi-hypervisor capability, and VXLAN gateway functionality.”

Click on the image for a larger image:

 Cisco ONE Software Controller  Cisco ONE Software Controller Progrmmability

OpenFlow vs onePK

The underlying factor of SDN is the OpenFlow protocol. OpenFlow helps to enable the control and forwarding plane separation. OpenFlow has received tremendous support by other networking vendors like HP, Brocade and Juniper. In June 2012, Cisco is rolled out its own OpenFlow agent for Catalyst switches and a proof of concept OpenFlow controller.

From an OpenFlow perspective, Cisco’s ONE Controller will also be able to control SDN across non-Cisco, OpenFlow enabled switches. While Cisco is not initially planning on specifically testing and providing verification against other networking vendors’ OpenFlow switches, it sounds like this may be the intent.

Cisco ONE Software Controller for SDN

Software Defined Networking (SDN) is all about abstracting the capabilities of the network from the networking hardware itself. The OpenFlow protocol is a core approach to enabling SDN and it relies on the use of OpenFlow enabled switches and then a controller to manage the flows.

Cisco is expanding on the OpenFlow approach with its new Cisco ONE Software Controller. One major benefit of the this controller is that the Cisco ONE controller is able to support Cisco’s onePK (ONE Platform Kit) for enabling SDN as well as OpenFlow.

While there are a number of open source OpenFlow controllers in the market, the Cisco controller was built in-house by Cisco engineers over the last two years. Other networking vendors including Juniper and HP are currently also heavily engaged in building or enhancing SDN controller technologies.

Recent acquisitions over the past year of SDN start-ups proves this to be a hot market to be in.

For those who want to learn more about what Cisco has to say about SDN, OpenFlow and probably their new Cisco One Software Controller. this may be an event you may want to add into your calendar. Click on the link or title below to register:

Cisco ONE Webcast Series: An Introduction to OpenFlow

This briefing by David Ward, CTO, Cisco Engineering and Chief SP Architect and other industry experts, offers valuable educational information and updates.

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