OpenFlow Protocol 1.3.0 Approved

OpenFlow 1.3.0 provides a stable base for the next generation of software defined networking, IPv6, backbone tunneling, and QoS.

By Sean Michael Kerner | Posted May 17, 2012
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The OpenFlow open source protocol for software defined networking (SDN) took a big step forward today with the approval of the OpenFlow 1.3.0 specification.

OpenFlow switches enable more control

OpenFlow 1.3.0 introduces new features that enable network administrators to have more control over their network deployments. The new specification is also important as it is likely to become the stable base upon which future commercial implementations for OpenFlow will be built.

Dan Pitt, executive chairman of the Open Networking Foundation (ONF) told Enterprise Networking Planet that the OpenFlow 1.2 specification was the first release from the ONF after inheriting the project from Stanford University. The ONF recently celebrated its first anniversary as the new home for moving OpenFlow forward.

"The OpenFlow 1.0 specification was widely implemented in its base form and 1.1 was not widely implemented," Pitt noted. "In 1.3.0, we have added some essential features including IPv6, quality of service and we've added tunneling support."

With the IPv6 support in OpenFlow 1.3.0, implementers can now take full advantage of SDN in IPv6 environments. Currently the majority of the world's traffic flows over IPv4, though that is expected to change over time as carriers and enterprises adopt IPv6.

OpenFlow 1.3.0 also provides support for provider backbone bridging, which enables tunneling across datacenters.

"We're finding that people are using OpenFlow as a wrapper over existing networks, so the tunneling support is important," Pitt said.

Control and data separated

OpenFlow enables network administrators to have programmable networks where the control and data planes are separated. As an adjunct to the OpenFlow 1.3.0 specification, the ONF has also issued the OF-Config 1.1 specification. With OF-Config 1.1, OpenFlow switches and controllers from multiple vendors can be managed.

"Config enables very simple configuration of a switch to turn ports on and off and it identifies the OpenFlow controller," Pitt explained.

Overall, the OpenFlow 1.3.0 specification is a significant milestone for the ONF. In recent months, OpenFlow has gained in popularity with vendors including HP, Juniper and even Cisco jumping on the bandwagon. While the 1.0, 1.1 and 1.2 specifications are still out in the market, with 1.3.0, the ONF is marking a new milestone for stability.

"We decided to make 1.3.0 a stable target for chip and software vendors," Pitt said. "We have been a moving target and now vendors can have the confidence that we're investing in this generation."

From a compatibility perspective, Pitt said that OpenFlow 1.3.0 is backwards compatible with OpenFlow 1.2. Moving forward, it's not yet clear if the ONF will issue a 1.4 release or not. Pitt noted that first he needs to see what the feedback is from ONF membership.

"Our goal is to standardize as little as necessary," Pitt said. "So we won't measure ourselves on how often we issue a standard. That's not going to help the market. Our goal is to see SDN become pervasive and it's a judgment call as to what that requires."

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

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