SDN FEATURE NEWS

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

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