Service Providers

OpenFlow Coming to MLX and CES/CER

by Norival on ‎05-21-2012 05:00 PM (1,203 Views)

The upcoming Multi-Service IronWare software release 5.4 for NetIron Family of Routers for MLX, XMR, CES, and CER will support OpenFlow version 1.0. These will be the first carrier-grade systems to support OpenFlow. OpenFlow will be supported as part of a normal software release. That is, OpenFlow is just another feature to be supported on these routers along with all other supported features, such as IPv4/v6 routing, MPLS, VPLS, PBB, and etc. This is not an experimental feature or a prototype. OpenFlow will be available as a fully supported feature on these routers.

If you already have a network with the above products, you will have the option to run OpenFlow in it with a software upgrade to software release 5.4. I know you are thinking: “Does it mean that my existing CES/CER and MLX are OpenFlow ready?” Yes they are! The OpenFlow feature is yet another example of the investment protection offered by these products. You will have OpenFlow running in hardware with wire rate performance from 1G to 100G line cards. Yes, you read it correctly! You will have OpenFlow available on 100G ports!

“What happens when I upgrade my router to this software release? Does it become an OpenFlow router and stops forwarding traffic until I connect an OpenFlow controller to it and push some flows?” Nothing happens to your existing feature configurations. If you have an MLX running IPv4 routing, for example, it will continue doing so. The OpenFlow feature ships disabled by default. Besides, enabling OpenFlow on the router simply allows it to connect to an OpenFlow controller. You need to enable OpenFlow on a set of desired ports. Speaking of which, OpenFlow is enabled on a per-port basis. This means that the Brocade OpenFlow feature supports “hybrid switch mode”. That is, you can have some ports of the router running OpenFlow, while other ports will run any other existing features. Compare that to some implementations out there where you have either all ports running OpenFlow or none. Hybrid mode allows you to introduce OpenFlow on your existing network at your own pace. This also allows you can leverage your existing Brocade routers, i.e., you do not need to add new routers dedicated to the OpenFlow feature.

Brocade’s customers are very creative and have described multiple applications they envision for the OpenFlow feature we provide.  Those include use of OpenFlow in metro, wide area, and also in Service Provider data center networks.  Customers see OpenFlow being used for traffic flow management based on application needs and business rules.  This is not the same old and boring flow traffic engineering. We are talking here about an application that generates some traffic or knows something important about some traffic and directly controls the network behavior for that traffic.

Other applications mentioned by our customers include: network analytics (i.e., use OpenFlow to mirror certain traffic for analytic purposes), security applications (e.g., OpenFlow used to control network access), network virtualization (i.e., use of OpenFlow for network virtualization and support for multi-tenancy), replacement of specialized router service blades with software appliances (e.g., use OpenFlow to steer traffic through a pipeline of servers supporting specialized services – such as firewalls, NAT, BRAS, and etc), and research network applications (e.g., research organizations experimenting with new network protocols using OpenFlow).

Brocade understands our customers need broad interoperability with available OpenFlow controllers for their deployments. Let’s then take a look at the Brocade history so far with OpenFlow and interoperability efforts. Brocade publicly announced its support for the OpenFlow technology back in June 2010. Since then, Brocade has been working with customer to understand their specific requirements.  Brocade’s first public demonstration of OpenFlow capabilities was at the 1st Open Networking Summit (ONS) at Stanford University in October 2011 (URL: Brocade demonstrated a NetIron CES running an early OpenFlow implementation as part of the Network Virtualization demonstration done by NEC using PFC, their OpenFlow Controller.

At the 2nd ONS in April 2012 in Santa Clara, CA, Brocade demonstrated OpenFlow running at wire speed on an MLXe and on a CER at the Brocade booth (URL: Brocade demonstrated 10G and 1G multipoint flows running at wire speed. These multipoint flows demonstrated Brocade’s unique OpenFlow support for flows with actions to send copies of the packet to multiple destination ports, while supporting VLAN tag modifications on a per-destination port basis, as show in the figure below. A Brocade MLXe was also part of the NEC ProgrammableFlow Controller (PFC) Demo at the 2nd ONS.

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2nd ONS Brocade Demonstration

In May 2012, Brocade MLXe and CER running OpenFlow were present at Interop Las Vegas. An MLXe and a CER were part of the Interop Las Vegas OpenFlow iLab demonstrations (URL:  and an MLXe was part of an NEC demonstration of a multi-vendor network fabric enabled via OpenFlow (URL:

Brocade participated at the 1st Open Networking Foundation (ONF) OpenFlow plugfest in March, 2012. This was a one-week event where over a dozen organizations participated, including controller vendors and router/switch vendors. Brocade attended with an MLXe and a CER. The Brocade equipment interworked with NEC PFC, Indiana University ON-SS (based on NOX), NTTData, BigSwitch (Floodlight), and FlowVisor. I attended the plugfest and ended up on the video published by ONF  ( That reminds me that I almost forgot to mention that Brocade is a member of the ONF.  Brocade is a member of the ONF since day one of this organization.

Now that you have an overview of what is coming soon, stay tuned as we are busy working on the next steps ...