Cisco close to releasing SDN components


Cisco Systems Inc. is getting closer to releasing vital components that will allow its customers to start building programmable networking.

Shashi Kiran, the company’s senior director of data centre and cloud platforms, told Canadian media and analysts Wednesday that two pieces — its onePK developer environment and controller software – are in the final stages of trial testing and should be out before the end of the year.

Announced in June, the two pieces are part of Cisco’s three-prong strategy to get ahead of competitors in programmable networks – sometimes called software defined networking (SDN).

Programmable networks are aimed at meeting the challenge of flatter, virtualized data centres.

There are several ways of creating programmable networks. Cisco has adopted three of them, arguing that each has its own advantages for different organizations.

The onePK environment will open all of Cisco’s operating systems — IOS, IOS-XR and NX-OS — to a set of application programmable interfaces (APIs), so users of Cisco routers and switches can get a toe into network programming.

Kiran said onePK will be released to market “platform by platform.” Cisco has said previously it will be first available for the ASR1000 and ISRG2 routers.

The controller software is aimed specifically at Catalyst 3750-X and 3560-X switches for organizations that want to get into true SDN using the OpenFlow API. Cisco expects universities and researchers will go this route.

This software is also in early field and lab trials, Kiran said.

The third way is by building overlay networks using OpenStack, and Cisco’s road to entry here is expanding the capabilities of its Nexus 1000V virtual router.

Kiran described the progress of the network programming elements as he announced the upcoming Nexus 3548 10GB Ethernet switch. It comes with something Cisco calls Algorithm Boost (or Algo Boost), which the company says delivers up to 60 per cent network-access performance improvement over competing full-featured 10GB Ethernet switches.

“This is a key piece of network infrastructure tailored for high performance computing and high frequency computing,” he said, environments that would include financial trading houses.

While some networking companies have given up on creating their own silicon, he said, Cisco sees products where there is value in its own ASIC chips integrated with its software.

The 1U-sizedNexus 3548 uses a new ASCI with Algo Boost to offer latency as low as 190 nanoseconds.

The switch’s Precision Time Protocol will help trading firms keep their infrastructure highly synchronized, allowing them to correlate network events and better achieve regulatory compliance and digital forensics, Cisco said, while Active Buffer Monitoring monitors for network congestion.

Intelligent Traffic Mirroring filters and nanosecond time-stamps captured traffic to help identify network problems.

The switch will be available next month. Pricing will be announced then.

All network equipment companies are in a race to solidify their network programmability strategies and products. To some degree they rely on decisions made by bodies like the Open Networking Foundation, a group of carriers, service providers and equipment makers trying to create standards.

“We’re doing an aggressive outreach” now to customers on the benefits of software-defined networking, Kiran said, because there is some confusion about the different terms and technologies – including SDN, OpenFlow, OpenStack and overlay networks.

That will increase in the next few months, he said.

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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@]

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