Cisco Reveals Its Software-Defined Networking Strategy

Cisco unveiled its strategy for delivering software-defined networking, describing its Open Network Environment Platform Kit (onePK) as a more comprehensive approach than the OpenFlow protocol or the OpenStack approaches by others.

Cisco Systems, the networking industry leader that others are looking to for guidance on its software-defined networking strategy, introduced a development platform for creating software applications that control networking hardware to run more efficiently.

The Cisco Open Network Environment Platform Kit, which the company dubbed onePK, is delivered through a rich set of platform APIs, agents, controllers and overlay network technologies, an approach that touches on three of the current technology approaches of others to enable what's called software-defined networking (SDN).

By unveiling onePK at its Cisco Live conference June 13 in San Diego, Cisco has answered a question asked by industry observers about what the largest vendor of networking products in the business is going to do to use software to improve the efficiency of networks.

An academic and industry initiative called the Open Network Foundation is evangelizing a protocol called OpenFlow that enables SDN. A number of startups such as Big Switch Networks and Nicira have emerged with SDN solutions. Meanwhile, more established networking vendors such as HP, Juniper and Brocade have also introduced SDN offerings based on OpenFlow. Cisco executives at Cisco Live described these market developments as hype. Cisco has been cagey about its strategy until now, with the introduction of onePK.

"People want more programmability in their networks so they can tailor it to their specific environment and achieve a turnaround time much faster than traditional build, test and release cycles," said David Yen, senior vice president and general manager of Cisco's Data Center Group, at a news conference at Cisco Live that was streamed live online.

OnePK is based on three of the existing models for SDN being developed in the industry today, explained Shashi Kiran, senior director of marketing for the Data Center Group.

Cisco's approach includes use of OpenFlow, a routing protocol that decouples the control plane from the forwarding plane on a network so that the software controller can augment the intelligence built into routers and switches to improve performance, reduce latency and move data across the network more efficiently, Kiran said. Cisco is a member of the ONF, as are many other IT companies.

OnePK also embraces OpenStack, an open source-based effort to develop a stack of applications, and protocols that could create a cloud computing environment. Cisco is a member of OpenStack, too, as are a Who's Who of other tech firms.

This article was originally published on 06-14-2012
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