Vendor-neutral SDN spec pushed by Broadcom

November 28, 2012

Bernard Cole-November 28, 2012

Broadcom has formed an industry group with the aim of developing an interface for software-defined networks that will incorporate both the new OpenFlow approach and legacy distributed nets.

The company is working with two communications OEMs and a group of apps developers to write a high-level applications programming interface for software-defined networks.

The API is an attempt at a vendor-neutral, hybrid approach that could embrace both today’s distributed protocols and OpenFlow, a new approach to software defined network that has caused considerable controversy in the networking world.

Proposed about a year ago, OpenFlow’s aim is to simplify the building and managing of big networks by centralizing communications tasks on x86 servers. Theoretically, it replaces today’s complex set of distributed protocols run in an array of merchant chips and ASICs in a variety of proprietary software environments.

While simple conceptually, the OpenFlow approach has met with resistance because it would require companies to replace all their networks. Also, because everything is coordinated from a single centralized OpenFlow controller there is the opportunity for a wide variety of bottlenecks.

With the API it is proposing,  Broadcom is aiming for a way to enable both OpenFlow and distributed networking protocols already in use to work together, acting as an uber-standard above Open Flow and such vendor-specific SDN APIs proposed by Cisco Systems and others.

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