Open Networking + Software-Defined Networking: Any way you want IT

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As we celebrate the year anniversary of Open Networking, let’s reflect on how Open Networking has evolved and how it relates to Software-Defined Networking (SDN). Fundamentally, Open Networking is about maximizing capability and choice for customers through technology disaggregation. At its outset, Open Networking referred to the ability to procure networking hardware independently from network software—at times from different vendors and typically with different associated refresh cycles. For those familiar with the last 20 years of networking, this represents a huge departure from business-as-usual, where networking software and hardware have been inextricably tied by proprietary means. (Thanks Cisco!).

We, at Dell, have been at the forefront of this hugely disruptive Open Networking movement with our announcements and partnerships with like-minded companies such as Cumulus Networks and Big Switch Networks combined with the Dell Networking portfolio. (Read more about Dell’s advancements in Open Networking in our previous blog post).

However, this notion of disaggregation and Open Networking can also be applied to other aspects of networking, and as such forms our complete solution set for SDN. For example, disaggregating physical from virtual networking is also an expression of Open Networking. In this case, customers are able to make independent investments in their virtual and physical switching footprints. A customer might select, for example, VMware for server virtualization and their NSX product for Network Virtualization Overlay (NVO) and vSwitch functionality and combine that with Dell’s physical switches. The customer might even elect to use a 3rd party NVO controller such as from Midokura.

There is yet another form of disaggregation,  or Open Networking, that aims to decouple network control and forwarding planes. This is done typically with a centralized controller platform, a standardized communication protocol, and controller-aware switches. In this model, customers can mix-and-match at the hardware switching level, the controller level, and at the network application level. The announcement that we made with NEC, and our efforts around the OpenDaylight project are examples of this model at work.

So Open Networking, you’ve come a long way in the past year, forming the foundation for our SDN portfolio, and maximizing networking capability and choice for our customers. From open operating system solutions, to open hypervisor/NVO solutions, to open control plane solutions, we have the right solution for you, any way you want IT.

In my next blog, I will discuss Open Networking and SDN in the broader context of a Software-Defined Data Center either for enterprise or for carriers. Though the design goals of enterprise and carriers are different, there are some striking similarities especially when factoring in what carriers are looking to do with Network Functions Virtualization (NFV). So stay tuned!

In the meantime, we’d love to hear from you. Leave us your feedback or comment, and follow the #OpenNetworking conversation at @DellNetworking on Twitter.

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