Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Video interview with Cisco: What is OpFlex?

In this video, Tom Edsall, CTO of the Insieme business unit at Cisco, introduces OpFlex, a new policy protocol designed to support physical and virtual switching infrastructure.  OpFlex
provides an abstraction that Cisco believes is better suited than OpenFlow is scaling out policy.

Cisco has published an OpFlex draft in the IETF and will be releasing an OVS implementation in the public domain as well as a controller in the Open Daylight consortium.  The company hopes that open APIs will enable more equipment to be brought in under the OpFlex policy umbrella.  OpFlex fits in with Cisco's Application Centric Infrastructure vision.  Edsall describes differences between the imperative control plane model of "traditional SDN" and the declarative control plane of its ACI model, saying that some things should be centralized while others are best to be distributed.

See 3-minute video:

In April, Cisco introduced OpFlex - a new networking protocol designed to open up its vision of Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) in the data center for automated applications and interoperability with other software-defined networking (SDN) elements.

OpFlex is a southbound protocol that is co-authored by Citrix, IBM, Microsoft, and Sungard Availability Services. It provides a mechanism that enables a network controller to transfer abstract policy to a set of “smart” devices capable of directly rendering rich network policy on the device.  OpFlex will enable leading hypervisors, switches and network services (layer 4-layer 7) to self-configure driven by application policy.

Cisco is submitting to the IETF for standardization. It is also an open source Contribution that Cisco is making to OpenDaylight in partnership with IBM, Plexxi and Midokura.  Other companies that are supporting OpFlex include Microsoft, RedHat, F5, Citrix, Canonical, and Embrane.  Hypervisor and software vendors will support OpFlex-enabled virtual switches and extend the Cisco ACI policy framework in their virtual environments. Network services vendors like Avi Networks, Citrix, Embrane, and F5 Networks will be shipping an OpFlex agent with their appliances.

In addition, Cisco is working with OpenDaylight to create a 100 percent open source, ACI-compatible policy model and OpFlex reference architecture.

Compared to the current SDN model, Cisco said its Application Centric Infrastructure avoids the scalability/resiliency challenge of having a single SDN controller managing the state of the network. Its ACI approach is to distribute complexity to the edges and operate disconnected from a central policy manager.  It also would not require application developers to describe their requirements with low level constructs.

Cisco is planning to support the OpFlex Protocol on the following Cisco products:
  • Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure, Nexus 9000 Series
  • Cisco Nexus 1000V
  • Cisco ASR 9000 Series
  • Cisco Nexus 7000 Series
  • Cisco ASA
  • Cisco SourceFire

See also