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OpenFlow controllers will only take shape if vendors play nice

OpenFlow controllers can result in a new level of granular network management and network virtualization on top of commodity hardware, but vendors will have to step out of the way.

Openflow controllers and software-defined networking were the center of conversation this year in networking – and for good reason. Software-defined networking will eventually allow engineers to decouple the control plane of a network from the physical infrastructure, offering a real-time, holistic view of the network, and the ability to control how network path flows are distributed to individual switches and routers. It will also let engineers spin up instances of virtual network components on command.

But there's a problem, physical network vendors have to support this movement, and it's unclear what their motivation will be to do so. After all, why support a new generation of software-based switches, load balancers and firewalls that rely only on commoditized hardware? Where's the profit?

Openflow developer Big Switch Networks tells editor, Rivka Gewirtz Little in her blog “Openflow controllers could change networking forever ... or not” that user demand for flexibility will force vendors to comply, but that remains to be seen.

Up next, yet another troubling data center networking protocol...

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