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Interop NYC: Where's the OpenFlow?

After all the OpenFlow hype at Interop Las Vegas, there is noticeably little talk of the specification here at Interop NYC. Is that because it's not ready for primetime?

There is a very noticeable lack of OpenFlow talk here at Interop NYC this week, especially considering the software-defined networking protocol dominated the conversation at Interop Las Vegas in May.

The lack of presence may be a sign that the OpenFlow protocol is not nearly as ready for prime-time as some hoped it would be by now.

The OpenFlow protocol promises to allow engineers to abstract or decouple the control plane of a network in order to centrally manage data flows among among numerous switches and routers. This will enable automation and dynamic provisioning of network resources in the cloud.

At the Interop Las Vegas show, 15 vendors participated in the Interop OpenFlow lab, presenting demos of beta products. NEC won Best of Interop for its OpenFlow-based switch, Extreme Networks announced an OpenFlow-based network architecture, and Cisco and HP Networking both noted the need for the specification. In fact, HP promised to allocate significant R&D resources to OpenFlow.

Meanwhile, this week at Interop NYC, HP's data center switching announcement had absolutely nothing to do with OpenFlow. What's more, companies like NEC, Extreme and BigSwitch (which also made big OpenFlow promises at Interop Las Vegas) don't even have booths here in NYC.

So what gives?

Twilight in the Valley of Nerds Blogger Brad Casemore wonders if there has been a clear split between the needs of the enterprise and those of service providers and big players like Google and Facebook. The enterprise, he told me yesterday, still realizes it needs feature-rich traditional switches and routers that make forwarding decisions based on data from MAC address tables. Meanwhile, those supporting big cloud environments are willing to give some of that up for agility.

It's also possible that some vendors realized they had spoken way too soon. As IOS Hints blogger Ivan Pepelnjak said in his Fast Packet blog, "Is OpenFlow networking bunk?," the difficult part of OpenFlow "will be writing the controller software that everyone is already raving about. But that won't be easy."

Of course there's also the possibility that the lack of OpenFlow presence may just be chalked up to a tough economy. After all, if you're not already selling product, do you really have money to be a trade show? Vyatta's marketing VP Tom McCafferty reminds us that there is an OpenFlow Symposium hosted by Packet Pushers and Tech Field Day in Santa Clara on October 25.

"Maybe they're just saving their budgets for that," he said.

Read more Fast Packet bloggers

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