Ethernet Switches & Routers

OpenFlow and the Open Networking Foundation

by mschiff on ‎04-15-2011 11:51 AM (493 Views)

What is OpenFlow?

OpenFlow is an open standard that enables researchers to run experimental protocols in the campus networks we use every day. OpenFlow is added as a feature to commercial Ethernet switches, routers and wireless access points – and provides a standardized hook to allow researchers to run experiments, without requiring vendors to expose the internal workings of their network devices. OpenFlow is currently being implemented by major vendors, with OpenFlow-enabled switches now commercially available.


How does OpenFlow work?

In a classical router or switch, the fast packet forwarding (data path) and the high level routing decisions (control path) occur on the same device. An OpenFlow Switch separates these two functions. The data path portion still resides on the switch, while high-level routing decisions are moved to a separate controller, typically a standard server. The OpenFlow Switch and Controller communicate via the OpenFlow protocol, which defines messages, such as packet-received, send-packet-out, modify-forwarding-table, and get-stats.

The data path of an OpenFlow Switch presents a clean flow table abstraction; each flow table entry contains a set of packet fields to match, and an action (such as send-out-port, modify-field, or drop). When an OpenFlow Switch receives a packet it has never seen before, for which it has no matching flow entries, it sends this packet to the controller. The controller then makes a decision on how to handle this packet. It can drop the packet, or it can add a flow entry directing the switch on how to forward similar packets in the future.


What can I do with OpenFlow?

OpenFlow allows you to easily deploy innovative routing and switching protocols in your network. It is used for applications such as virtual machine mobility, high-security networks and next generation ip based mobile networks.


What is the Open Networking Foundation?

The Open Networking Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting a new approach to networking called Software-Defined Networking (SDN). SDN allows owners and operators of networks to control and manage their networks to best serve their needs. ONF’s first priority is to develop and use the OpenFlow protocol. Through simplified hardware and network management, OpenFlow seeks to increase network functionality while lowering the cost associated with operating networks.


What companies make up the ONF?

Board of Directors

Deutsche Telekom, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Verizon, Yahoo!



Big Switch Networks, Broadcom, Brocade, Ciena, Cisco, Citrix, Dell, Ericsson, Extreme Networks, Force10, HP, IBM, IP Infusion, Juniper Networks, Marvell, NEC, Netgear, Nokia, Siemens Networks, NTT, Riverbed, Technology, VMware


What types of organizations does Brocade envision adopting OpenFlow first?

Hyper-scale data centers, Cloud infrastructure providers and Web2.0 companies.  The founding network operator companies of the ONF are good examples of the types of companies we expect to be early adopters of the technology.


Which Brocade products support OpenFlow?

An OpenFlow prototype based on the Brocade NetIron CES is now available in Brocade’s service provider product portfolio