Alcatel Lucent Outlines Enterprise SDN Strategy

Alcatel Lucent decides against using OpenFlow for its initial enterprise SDN deployments

By Sean Michael Kerner | Posted Nov 27, 2012
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For many enterprise networking vendors, OpenFlow has become synonymous with Software Defined Networking (SDN). That's not the case for the enterprise business unit of networking vendor Alcatel-Lucent.

Alcatel-Lucent today unveiled its SDN strategy, expanding on the company's existing Application Fluency approach to intelligent application aware networks.

Cliff Grossner, Senior Director, Networks Solutions Marketing at Alcatel-Lucent explained to EnterpriseNetworkingPlanetthat to date there has been a lot of hype around SDN in general. He added that the Alcatel-Lucent SDN strategy is all about taking a practical approach for the enterprise

"We saw all the hype and confusion around SDN and we felt that there was a need to be the voice of reason of what is practical to the enterprise, while all the others focus on big grandiose ideas," Grossner said.

Instead of focusing on OpenFlow as a protocol to enable network control and programmability, Alcatel-Lucent's SDN strategy begins with adding RESTful interface to its OmniSwitch switches. On top of that the plan is to have controller functionality as well, as service orchestration that is vendor agnostic across an enterprise networking infrastructure.

Other networking vendors including Cisco, HP and Brocade have all in one form or another started the process of leveraging OpenFlow as a core component of SDN deployment. Grossner noted that while Alcatel-Lucent isn't entirely walking away from OpenFlow, the initial plans do not include an effort to support it in their enterprise switches in 2013. "Our strategy long term is to support OpenFlow, though our immediate priority is to support RESTful interfaces on our switches as we see that having a more immediate value," Grossner said. "As we the deployment of OpenFlow enabled switches cross a certain threshold, we will support OpenFlow."

In terms of supporting an agnostic switching environment, Alcatel-Lucent will leverage multiple sets of capabilities that already exist on switches today. Grossner said that multi-switch vendor control could simply be enabled using SNMP or the CLI.

On the controller side of Alcatel-Lucent's strategy, the plan is to also open up the system to third party partners.

"On the enterprise side our goal is to work with an ecosystem of controller vendors," Grossner said. "It is not our intent to bring our own controller to market."

Grossner stressed that even though Alcatel-Lucent is not currently supporting OpenFlow, some of the OpenFlow controll vendors have controller solutions that can work outside of the OpenFlow protocol.

SPB vs. VXLAN

VMware has been promoting the use of the VXLAN abstraction layer to help enable SDN. It's an approach that Alcatel-Lucent will not be following. Instead Grossner noted that his company will continue to work on Shortest Path Bridging as a way to flatten network topology.

"VXLAN is predominately an overlay model and at the moment our view is that there are alternatives that are better," Grossner said. "SPB is what we decided to go with as it multi-tenant capability and the ability to have portioning and virtualization."

Though Alcatel-Lucent does not support VXLAN today, Grossner noted that as market demands dictate, in the future it's possible that his company will support the technology.

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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