Cisco Opens Up SDN Policy with OpFlex

Multiple vendors join with Cisco to support new protocol that aims to open up the southbound SDN interface.

 By Sean Michael Kerner
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LAS VEGAS. Software Defined Networking (SDN) as well as traditional networking have long required the use of policy constructs. At the Interop conference, Cisco today is formally announcing a new effort to enable policy to seamlessly move across the network in an open standards-based approach.

The new effort is called the OpFlex protocol, and it has already gained the initial support of Canonical, Citrix, Microsoft, and Red Hat. Mike Cohen, director of Product Management at Cisco, explained to Enterprise Networking Planet that OpFlex is a new protocol that opens up the southbound interface for policy in a networking environment.

OpFlex is currently being set up as an open-source reference implementation, and Cisco is seeking to fully standardize the protocol through the IETF. The open source work for OpFlex is being done in the Linux Foundation's OpenDaylight SDN project. Cisco is one of the leaders of the OpenDaylight project and has contributed a significant amount of code to the effort.

Cohen said that in his view, prior to OpFlex there has not been a standardized way of passing along higher-level policy in a network. He added that the OpFlex protocol is being designed in a way that makes it open and able to support any number of different devices

OpFlex is intended to be a key part of Cisco's own Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) efforts. Cisco officially launched ACI in November of 2013 as a new approach for enabling an agile network built for applications. OpFlex will now be able to serve as the policy protocol transport layer with an ACI infrastructure.

Going a step higher in the stack, the Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC) is the policy engine for enabling ACI across the network. APIC will now be able to get policy by way of OpFlex.

The actual technology behind the policy structure is also going open source in a project called Group Policy API, set to help define what infrastructure policy needs to look like across the network.

"The idea is to drive an open source definition around policy," Cohen said.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at EnterpriseNetworkingPlanet and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist

This article was originally published on Apr 2, 2014
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