Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Blueprint: Can OpenFlow 1.3.1 and TTP Enable SDN for Carrier Networks?

by Nicholas Ilyadis
Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, Infrastructure & Networking Group (ING), Broadcom

Software Defined Networking (SDN) is a trend that continues to garner widespread industry attention these days due to its ability to manage network complexity via a network-wide software platform. Perhaps the most well-known of all SDN instantiations is OpenFlow; the industry’s first standard communications interface between the control and forwarding layers of an SDN architecture. Originally introduced by Stanford and later taken over by the Open Networking Foundation (ONF) consortium, the technology has steadily amassed a growing community of users. And it’s those users who have helped guide the technology’s evolution through the years.
A perfect case in point is the introduction of the OpenFlow 1.3.1 switch specification. It was developed in direct response to the community’s need for a switch that mapped to OpenFlow; a capability that would help enable SDN for carrier networks. The problem was figuring out just how to make it happen. That task fell to the ONF’s Forwarding Abstractions Working Group (FAWG).
At the outset FAWG faced a key challenge: OpenFlow 1.0 was not designed on switches. It was developed on servers and that meant that all of the data structures for forwarding data flows through a network, and being able to do look-ups and make decisions on packet flows and forwarding were basically mapped into the server memory. Servers have a significant amount of memory so it was fairly easy to create a unified table that could be used to reference the packet heade
rs coming in and make forwarding decisions.

This approach; however, was at odds with what the OpenFlow community wanted. It wanted a uniform model that could be used to describe an OpenFlow switch; a single table with entries in it that could be used to design a switch with that construct. But switches don’t have that construct; they have several different constructs. And they are typically made out of several smaller tables that are used to look up different parts of a packet header, rather than just one massive table. Switches just don’t have the same resources as servers. Porting OpenFlow 1.0 to switches became a challenge and limited its capabilities on real-world switch hardware.

Faced with this reality, FAWG began to consider another possibility. Rather than redesigning all switches to fit the OpenFlow model, perhaps it could just modify OpenFlow to be more applicable to real-world switches.

As an example, consider that when we say the word “car” today, it quickly conjures up an image of a vehicle with four wheels, a steering wheel, gear shifter, and brake and gas pedals. This uniform description ensures that you have the ability to drive a car, regardless of its types (e.g., SUV or sedan), as long as it meets the key elements specified in that description. This same type of uniform description is exactly what FAWG set out to create, only for the switch.

What it came up with is a way to describe a switch in a uniform manner using Table Type Partitioning (TTP) that OpenFlow understands and that is inclusive enough to allow many different real-world switches to fit that description. TTP is leveraged in OpenFlow 1.3.1.

A TTP is an abstract switch model that describes specific switch forwarding behaviors that an OpenFlow controller can program via the OpenFlow-Switch protocol. The switch forwarding behaviors are described via a sequence of tables that have ingress port information coming in and match fields going out. OpenFlow 1.3.1 specifies an OpenFlow switch that defines a pipeline containing multiple tables with each table containing multiple flow entries. Any variability in the switch that is outside of the TTP is covered as an extension, in much the same way that you could add features to the uniform car description, such as special lights or two versus four seats.

Because real-world switches from different vendors can now be described as a set of TTPs, they can be easily programmed to do their jobs, without users having to worry about any underlying details, such as how they were built or with what components. It’s really no different than being able to drive say, a sports car, without having to be concerned with what type of engine it has. At the end of the day, that means greater adoption of the OpenFlow standard on hardware forwarding targets and, with broad adoption of common TTPs, easier controller implementation will surely follow.

While the OFN’s FAWG was able to come up with a way for OpenFlow to understand real-world switches in a uniform manner, its efforts do nothing to address how to map the real-world switch to the TTP model in OpenFlow 1.3.1. And, that means deploying OpenFlow 1.3.1 in real-world deployments is neither quick nor easy.

One resolution to this dilemma comes from an industry source and it takes the form of an open source abstraction layer known as OpenFlow-Data Plan Abstract (OF-DPA) 1.0. OF-DPA essentially homogenizes the underlying switch so that it meets the OpenFlow 1.3.1 model. Or more simply put, it takes an SUV or sedan and makes it look like a generic car model.

With little doubt, OpenFlow is hoping to play a critical role in transforming the future of networking. OpenFlow 1.3.1 and TTPs, by enabling OpenFlow on industry standard switches, also aims to contribute to that transformation. Now, developments like OF-DPA are taking things one step further by making deployment of SDN in existing switch networks quick and easy. These advances bode well for enabling SDN on carrier networks, and that means network administrators will be able to roll out new services and functionality faster and with fewer errors, and more easily balance network loads. It’s capabilities like this that make SDN such a compelling answer to the complex challenges facing today’s networks and data centers.

About the Author

Nicholas (Nick) Ilyadis serves as Vice President and Chief Technical Officer of Broadcom’s Infrastructure and Networking Group (ING), where he is responsible for product strategy and cross portfolio initiatives for a broad portfolio of Ethernet chip products including network switches, high speed controllers, PHYs, enterprise WLAN, SerDes, silicon photonics, processors and security. Prior to Broadcom, Ilyadis served as Vice President of Engineering for Enterprise Data Products at Nortel Networks and held various engineering positions at Digital Equipment Corporation and Itek Optical Systems. Ilyadis holds an MSEE from the University of New Hampshire and a BTEE from the Rochester Institute of Technology. Ilyadis is a senior member of the IEEE and contributes to both the IEEE Computer and Communications Societies.

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Nokia Shareholders Approve all Resolutions for ALU Deal

Shareholders in Nokia Corporation approved all resolutions concerning the proposed acquisition of Alcatel-Lucent.

This follows the earlier-than-expected receipt of all regulatory approvals required to proceed with the proposed transaction and the launch of the French and U.S. public exchange offers for Alcatel-Lucent securities. The planned transaction is expected to close in the first quarter of 2016.

"We are delighted that the vast majority of Nokia’s shareholders recognize the long-term value creation opportunity that this proposed combination represents. We now encourage Alcatel-Lucent shareholders and convertible bondholders to help realize this potential by tendering their securities into the public exchange offer. By doing so, they would play an important role in helping to create a new leader in next generation technology and services for an IP connected world," stated Rajeev Suri, President and CEO of Nokia Corporation.

Nimble Says 750+ Enterprises Deploy SmartStack with Cisco

Nimble Storage announced that more than 750 global enterprises have deployed its flash-optimized SmartStack, an integrated infrastructure solution by Nimble Storage and Cisco since 2012.

New SmartStack Cisco Validated Designs leverage the Nimble Adaptive Flash platform, Cisco Unified Computing System, Cisco Data Center switching and Cisco ONE Enterprise Cloud Suite to deliver Enterprise ready solutions. These SmartStack solutions, jointly supported by Cisco and Nimble, speed application deployments, scale infrastructure components independently and simplify overall management.

In addition to introducing new SmartStack Cisco Validated Designs, Nimble is also introducing its latest SmartStack reference architecture for SQL Server 2014, which addresses the migration requirements in advance of the pending end of life of SQL Server 2005.

AWS Opens CDN and DNS Edge Location in Chicago

Amazon Web Services activated a new edge location in Chicago for its Amazon CloudFront (CDN) and Amazon Route 53 (DNS) services.

With the addition of the Chicago edge location, there are now a total of 21 edge locations in the US and 54 worldwide.

Bluesky Pacific Picks ALU for NZ-to-Hawaii Cable

Bluesky Pacific Group has selected Alcatel-Lucent Submarine Networks to build a new submarine cable system spanning more than 9,700 km across the Pacific.

The Moana Cable will link New Zealand and Hawaii.  The system will have two main segments: the first segment, based on two fiber pairs, will connect New Zealand to Hawaii over 8,000 km, serving Samoa and American Samoa and significantly enhancing route diversity for New Zealand; the second segment, based on one fiber pair, will link the Cook Islands to the Samoa hub over 1,700 km. 

The Moana Cable is also designed to accommodate the connection of additional Pacific island nations such as Niue, Tokelau and Tonga, which lie in close proximity to the New Zealand-to-Hawaii trunk, as well as French Polynesia on the East near the Cook Islands. It will be the first long-haul submarine cable in the Pacific islands region relying on the latest 200Gbpstechnology, with ultimate capacity between Hawaii and New Zealand of 20 Tbps.  Project completion is slated for 2018.
Bluesky Pacific Group owns and operates the ASH Cable connecting American Samoa to Hawaii and SAS Cable connecting Samoa to American Samoa. Anchor customers of the Moana Cable include Bluesky Pacific Group companies and existing ASH Cable customers. Bluesky has also signed a memorandum of understanding with RAM Telecom International, Inc, for collaboration and interconnection with its SEA-US submarine cable linking Asia to Hawaii and the West Coast of the United States.

Zayo Expands Fiber-to-the-Tower in Atlanta

Zayo announced the expansion of its fiber-to-the-tower (FTT) footprint in Atlanta to serve an anchor wireless service provider.

Specifically, Zayo will extend its existing 1,320-mile route mile network by more than 1,000 miles to provide FTT service to over 500 towers. Additionally, Zayo is pursuing opportunities to leverage its expanded Atlanta network to provide lit and dark fiber services to other enterprises and carrier customers.

“With this expansion, Zayo will have the leading competitive fiber footprint in Atlanta, with more than 2,300 miles of dense, high-count fiber,” said Jacob Fuller, vice president of Zayo’s Mobile Infrastructure business. “It’s a unique and extremely valuable asset, which we will leverage to increase the yield on our investment over time. We’ve already had several large enterprise and carrier customers express interest in our expanded network.”

Cellwize Secures Funding for its Self-Optimizing Network Software

Cellwize, a start-up headquartered in Singapore,  raised $14.5 million in a Series A funding round for its Self-Organizing Network (SON) solutions.

The funding round was led by Carmel Ventures and Vintage Investment Partners. In addition, Viola Credit (formerly Plenus) granted a $10 million credit facility to Cellwize. The funding will be used to boost Cellwize’s innovative SON customer-centric optimization capabilities and to expand its market presence including a planned significant increase in its workforce.

Cellwize said its optimization solutions are implemented in some of the world’s leading mobile operators serving over 300 million subscribers. Its elastic-SON solution autonomously delivers peak network performance, network reliability and operational efficiencies for increasingly complex heterogeneous networks.

“Cellwize has continuously invested in technology innovation and solution leadership, we will now be able to further accelerate our product road map and our market reach to take advantage of new SON opportunities,” said Ofir Zemer, CEO of Cellwize. “Our recent growth demonstrates even more, that enabling mobile operators to ensure a high quality of service for subscribers while maximizing profitability is essential in today’s highly competitive market space.”

Box Now Has 54,000 Paying Business Customers

Box reported revenue for the third quarter of its fiscal 2016 of $78.7 million, an increase of 38% from the third quarter of fiscal 2015. Billings in the third quarter of fiscal 2016 were a record of $89.4 million, an increase of 37% from the third quarter of fiscal 2015. There was a non-GAAP operating loss in the third quarter of fiscal 2016 was $37.9 million, or 48% of revenue.

During the quarter, the company grew its paying customer base to 54,000 businesses, including 55% of the Fortune 500. Box also increased the number of registered users to over 41 million.

“Enterprises in every industry are moving content to the cloud by investing in modern platforms that accelerate employee productivity and replace legacy systems,” said Aaron Levie, co-founder and CEO of Box. “As our strong revenue growth in Q3 indicates, Box is uniquely positioned to drive this transition. We continue to deliver innovations like Box Governance and Box Platform that differentiate us from competitors and assist our global customers to standardize on Box as their next-generation content platform.”