OpenFlow and SDN – The Missing Pieces in the Cloud Computing Puzzle?

Cloud Computing has been around for quite a while and even though some people considered it being just marketing hype it seems the concept has made its inroads into corporate IT and data centers. It was once defined by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) as “Convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable resources which include networks, servers, storage, applications and services. The cloud computing concept also includes rapid provisioning and release of those resources with minimal management effort or service provider interaction”

Looking at the current state of the Cloud technology it becomes obvious where the focus has been in the last years. VMware has significantly contributed to the success of Server Virtualization and various storage appliances are enabling Storage Virtualization. But as those technologies get more agile and customers start moving around virtual server images they are facing major obstacles in the area of networking.

Today’s networks are rather static and the dynamic change of a networking environment with MAC and IP-Addresses moving around between ports and locations was originally not foreseen. Slowly also the networking landscape is adapting to that – but the question remains how such a complex and changing environment can be configured and changed on request. While some vendors claim that their network management platform is the right and only way forward, it is just common sense that the complexity of such an environment, with many different components from different vendors working together to build an overall network, can only be managed in a reasonable way with an open standards based management interface.

It should surprise no one that terms like Software Defined Networks (SDN) and OpenFlow are among the most discussed topics at data center and IT focused networking events. Even IT giant IBM has just released a whole series of technical briefs about the implementation and design of open data centers with interoperable networks (ODIN). Those materials are not only describing the HW aspects of optical transport networks for data centers but they are also focusing on SDN and OpenFlow as the overall management solution. At the same time ADVA Optical Networking is working with various partners to support this message. We believe that the ever tighter integration of the Switching and Routing layer with the optical transport layer (also referred to as IP-Optical integration) will be forcing optical equipment vendors as well as the OpenFlow community to include optical transport into the concept of network virtualization. It seems as if finally Network Virtualization has taken off and we are on our way towards a fully virtualized Cloud and IT environment.

For even more on IBM and the future of open data centers, check out this blog post from Caismer DeCusatis: Towards an Open Datacenter with an Interoperable Network Part 1.