Cisco Adopts OpFlex for SDN in Data Center Infrastructure

By Michelle Nicolson April 03, 2014

Cisco announced this week that the company is adopting OpFlex, a new southbound protocol between network controllers and devices. The move comes as no surprise to industry insiders who saw the signs that the networking giant was interested in an alternative to the popular OpenFlow protocol for software defined networking (SDN).

According to Cisco, the combination of the company’s Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC) and OpFlex enables its customers to deploy and manage applications at scale, with full policy enforcement in multi-data center environment via policy federation.

Cisco published OpFlex as an open API, continuing the company’s legacy of support for open standards. According to the company, the protocol enables a network controller to transfer abstract policy to a set of "smart" devices capable of directly rendering rich network policy on the device.

There’s may be an alternative motive, however. “The strict OpenFlow model threatens Cisco in that it enables the potential use of so-called ‘white box’ switches, rather than the expensive, specialized hardware that is Cisco's bread and butter,” wrote Mitch Wagner, West Coast bureau chief of Light Reading. “So the more Cisco can do to promote declarative networks, the better off Cisco will likely be.”

Cisco is hedging its bet though, and the company has already lined up several major customers behind the new protocol.

“We are committed to building our infrastructure on open standards: the Cisco APIC southbound protocol, OpFlex, provides us an open, extensible framework to support any device in our data center—hypervisor switches, physical switches, network services and servers—allowing us to take advantage of our existing infrastructure investments," said Saleem Al Balooshi, executive vice president - network development & operations at du, an integrated telecommunications service provider in the United Arab Emirates.

Cisco calls its vision Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI), which the company describes as “a holistic architecture with centralized automation and policy-driven application profiles.” ACI comprises the company’s Nexus 9000 switches and an APIC that centralizes and automates policy management for the Nexus 9000 fabric. It reportedly can manage up to 1 million endpoints.

Cisco already has submitted OpFlex as a proposed standard to the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). OpFlex is co-authored by Citrix, IBM, Microsoft and Sungard Availability Services. 

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

NFVZone Contributing Writer

Related Articles

New Partnership Helps Service Providers with SDN

By: Frank Griffin    3/30/2017

A new partnership between Packet Design and NEC/Netcracker is going to give service providers new tools to implement software-defined networking (SDN)…

Read More

Brain4Net's New SDN Services Mean More Value

By: Steve Anderson    3/23/2017

Brain4Net brings out a line of carrier Ethernet services built around SDN, which join with virtual network services to create greater value.

Read More

TMC Announces 2016 SDN Product of the Year Award Winners

By: TMC    1/18/2017

TMC, a global, integrated media company helping clients build communities in person, in print and online, announced today the winners of the 2016 SDN …

Read More

Juniper to Buy AppFormix

By: Paula Bernier    12/5/2016

Juniper Networks recently announced plans to buy cloud optimization platform provider AppFormix. The deal is expected to close this quarter.

Read More

Vidder Expands on PrecisionAccess with Automation, Channel Efforts, Etc.

By: Paula Bernier    11/28/2016

Security company Vidder, which sells the PrecisionAccess software-defined perimeter service, continues to build on its momentum with new customers, ne…

Read More