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I2RS, Interface to the Routing System, remains viable SDN hybrid

One SDN blogger discusses I2RS, a hybrid model of SDN in the works, while another expert categorizes NFV and SDN vendors. Also, ONF updates its vision after its merge with ON.Lab.

In SDN blogging news, one networking expert looks at a hybrid model of SDN, called Interface to the Routing System, or I2RS; another expert discusses how he categorizes SDN and NFV vendors. Also, the newly minted vice president of standards and membership for the Open Networking Foundation, or ONF, writes about the updated vision for the organization after its merger with Open Networking Lab.

Interface to the Routing System

In a series of blog posts published on The Elastic Network, network engineer Russ White has discussed various SDN topics. He has touched on routing methods, protocols and OpenFlow. In a recent post, White asked if there was a hybrid model of SDN in development. His answer: Yes.

In 2012, the Internet Engineering Task Force began developing a model, called Interface to the Routing System. The objective of I2RS, White said, is to provide a near-real-time interface into the routing table. Essentially, this will allow routing decisions to be modified using I2RS, while keeping traditional protocols. Information can be injected or retrieved.

I2RS is based on the YANG data modeling language, which helps support coexistence between distributed protocols and centralized controllers. According to White, a server can send a message to a controller, using the YANG-based I2RS, and other routing processes can read the I2RS routing information.  

View the rest of White's post to see a network diagram example.

SDN and NFV vendor categories

Tom Nolle, president of CIMI Corp., wrote a post on the CIMI Corp. blog examining the plight of SDN and network functions virtualization (NFV) vendors. As the hype of SDN and NFV development meet the reality of deployments, Nolle said vendors have been caught in the crossfire. Subsequently, Nolle said vendors can be categorized into three groups: formalists, shape-shifters and specialists.

Nolle's first group of vendors -- formalists -- adheres to the assumption that SDN and NFV standards and trials will drive transformation and generate sales. However, due to the maturation of standards and pace of deployments for the now approximately 5-year-old technologies, he said about two-thirds of these vendors have left the formalist group. As SDN and NFV shift away from standards groups and toward open source projects -- a process that undermines vendor differentiation -- more formalist vendors are likely to change groups.

Shape-shifters form Nolle's second group of vendors. According to Nolle, these are the vendors that left the formalist group due to disappointing sales and recent concern about SDN and NFV adoption, but have yet to commit to a specific alternative course. Instead, this group maintains the mindset to stay alive and relevant through a temporary market stall.

Nolle cited Central Office Re-architected as a Datacenter (CORD) and AT&T's vendor-neutral Enhanced Control, Orchestration, Management and Policy architecture as two results from the shape-shifting transition. This group has two main challenges, Nolle said. The first is it must generate proven results in order to persuade enterprises and organizations to justify the risks associated with adopting a new technology. The second is it must paint a clear picture of what a new infrastructure foundation would look like.

Specialists are the last vendor group, according to Nolle. These vendors never aspired to provide a complete SDN or NFV transformation option. Instead, Nolle said, they wanted to join in the game and make money doing it. If someone did create a proven, complete SDN or NFV option, these vendors would be at risk. But, he said, the specialist approach loses its risk as a "full-spectrum transformation strategy" becomes less likely.

However, while Nolle said the opportunity is there for vendors, someone needs to lead the charge instead of waiting for someone else to do it. "All of these three vendor groups are depending on some future shift that the vendors themselves seem unwilling or unable to drive," he said.

Read Nolle's complete thoughts about vendors in the SDN and NFV realm.

The 'new' ONF vision

In October 2016, ONF and Open Networking Lab (ON.Lab) announced the two nonprofit organizations would merge. Recently, Timon Sloane, new vice president of standards and membership for ONF, turned to the ONF blog to state his vision for the "new" ONF -- a continued focus on standards.

"Already I have received a few inquiries on what the direction of the new organization is," Sloane wrote. "And I can sum it up in a few words: use-case-driven standards activity backed up by multiple working software implementations."

Standards, according to Sloane, are fuel for the ecosystem. But for standards to be successful, contributions are needed from multiple parties, he said. Essentially, Sloane's vision focuses on continued open source input from a variety of sources -- the open source community, vendors, operators and other standards organizations -- which will, in turn, support a combined standards effort.

While both organizations endeavored toward SDN progression before the merger, each worked for slightly different goals. ONF focused on promoting OpenFlow standards support, while ON.Lab worked to develop open source software projects like Open Networking Operating System (ONOS) and CORD. These efforts will remain, but Sloane said the ONOS and CORD projects will not be an exclusive priority for the new ONF.

Read Sloane's full post here.

Next Steps

What to know about Interface to the Routing System

The NFV vendor's journey in the market

ONF looks to unite open source projects

Dig Deeper on Software-defined networking