Is OpenFlow an answer looking for a problem?

Lane Patterson Equinix Kenneth Duda Arista Networks Structure 2012
Lane Patterson Equinix Kenneth Duda Arista Networks Structure 2012

(L to R) Lane Patterson, CTO, Equinix; Kenneth Duda, Founder, CTO and SVP, Software Engineering, Arista Networks<br />(c)2012 Pinar Ozger pinar@pinarozger.com

OpenFlow and software-defined networking may be hot topics in the infrastructure industry right now — but not everyone believes they are up to scratch.

At a panel discussing internet bypass and new data center fabrics at GigaOM’s Structure 2012 in San Francisco on Thursday, two senior industry figures said that the standard was still too immature to be useable.

Kenneth Duda, CTO and founder of cloud networking provider Arista Networks, launched a stinging criticism of OpenFlow — which he said was unable to do many of the jobs currently being ascribed to it.

“I think there’s a lot of attention placed in this space, and a lot of customer aspirations in this space that makes a lot of sense,” he said. “It seems to me that the promises have gotten a little bit of a head of delivery in some cases.”

He explained his thinking by suggesting a potential use case.

“There’s one application where, if you’re a government agency with a three letter acronym and you come in possession of 10 terabits of snooped network traffic, which you’re not allowed to store because it would violate federal wiretapping law, what you need to do is distribute this traffic over a bank of servers for analysis as quickly as possible,” he said.

“But then send http this way, send voice that way, send video that way, send email this way, subdivide it further by geography, by anything you know about the parties communicating and so on, and do all this in real time to balance load.”

“It turns out OpenFlow 1.0 is a very good fit for that problem: I haven’t found any other problems for which I believe OpenFlow 1.0 is a good fit.”

The comments were echoed — though not as strongly worded — by Lane Patterson, CTO of Equinix, who said that while OpenFlow looks promising, it still has a long way to go.

“We’re not quite sold on the maturity yet, so it’s still something we’re playing with in the labs,” he said.

“What OpenFlow represents for an end user or a service provider like Equinix… as we’re moving into this market and services creation space, and facilitating buying and selling through automated, cloudified means, we’re really looking for a vendor-independent way that’ll become a standard. Everything we’re doing today, we’re adapting to each vendor’s specific platform.”

Check out the rest of our Structure 2012 coverage, as well as the live stream, here.

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