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Guest Article: Asia Pacific’s leading role in Software Defined Networking

Dan Pitt, Executive Director of the Open Networking Foundation | Sept. 6, 2012
Interop Tokyo provided further proof that OpenFlow is leading the revolution

The world's first globally seamless cloud service incorporating OpenFlow technology was launched at the end of June this year by NTT Communications Corporation (NTT Com) - a sure sign of the Asia Pacific region's advanced role in embracing next-generation networking.

It was also a strong endorsement of OpenFlow, an industry standard that enables Software Defined Networking (SDN). With SDN, networks operation is directed from a central controller across a vendor-agnostic network of low-cost, relatively dumb switches and routers - without the massive investment in distributed intelligence currently maintained by proprietary system vendors.

As NTT Communications' senior vice president Yukio Ito explained: "OpenFlow already offers the features and benefits NTT Communications requires for its carrier-grade services. We are pleased with the industry offerings that enable our OpenFlow solution."

"Enterprise Cloud", as NTT Com's new infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) offering is called, uses OpenFlow to provide enterprises with easy control and management of their global cloud resources - optimising ICT investment and facilitating the global expansion of corporate operations.

This marks a significant development for business in the region. Without the flexibility of OpenFlow, multinationals' ability to respond to rapid market changes has been held back by the time it takes to expand and upgrade their networks. Enterprise Cloud, however, enables automated system changes via virtualised servers and networks, and a user-friendly customer portal. The service is initially provided via data centres in Japan and Hong Kong, followed by data centres in the U.S., the U.K., and Singapore in December and in Australia, Malaysia, and Thailand in March 2013.

What is OpenFlow?

OpenFlow is an industry-standard protocol that - together with an accessible API in an ordinary server - allows programming of a network's control plane from a central controller. Instead of having to go into the physical network and adjust lots of boxes, general instructions can be sent out across the entire network, or subsections of the network, using the OpenFlow protocol. These instructions are introduced by software written to the aforementioned API, making the network into "a software-defined network".  

In a normal router or switch the fast packet forwarding (data plane) and the high-level routing decisions (control plane) are in the same device. OpenFlow separates these two functions so that the data plane remains on the switch, while the high-level routing decisions move to a separate controller. The OpenFlow switch and controller communicate via the OpenFlow protocol.

Incorporating OpenFlow-enabled switches into an existing network can be done stage by stage as needed and according to budget, with the result that it becomes increasingly easy to roll out new routing and switching protocols across the network. These can not only optimise performance, but also address specific issues such as network flexibility to support virtual machine mobility, high-security networking, and next-generation IP-based mobile networks.


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