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Delve into the unknown world of OpenFlow, a new network trend that changes conventional wisdom!

  • MitaThat sounds tricky, so by all means.
  • KinashiIn short, virtualization enables quick procurement of resources and efficient operations. For example, suppose you needed a new server. Without virtualization, you have to order the server and wait for it to arrive before you can carry out settings, so it could be as much as a month before you can use it.
  • MitaWhat about with virtualization?
  • KinashiWith server virtualization, all you have to do is allocate a new virtual machine. It would probably be ready to use in 10 to 20 minutes. The process is speedy and convenient, because you can get a server ready by simply allocating the required space, without needing to prepare a physical server.
  • MitaCan't you do the same thing for networks?
  • KinashiUnfortunately, the concept of virtualization hasn't progressed much in the world of networks yet. So when the processing capacity of a network is exceeded due to factors such as the addition of servers, for example, physical tasks like changes to wiring, the addition or relocation of devices, and changes to device settings are necessary. For instance, even if a server can be configured virtually in 10 minutes, the network requires construction and configuration changes, so you may end up being told to wait a few days.

Larger viewNetworks cannot keep up with virtual server speed

  • MitaI see. But didn't you say earlier that changes to network configuration involved a lot of work?
  • KinashiThey do. But if networks could be virtualized, it would be possible to configure them virtually just like server virtualization, without worrying about physical components. Additional devices can also be set up easily.
  • MitaThat would make it more convenient!
  • KinashiSDN (Software-Defined Networking) is one of the approaches for implementing this kind of network virtualization.
  • MitaSDN? What's that all about?
  • KinashiIt's short for software-defined networking. In layman's terms, it refers to networks that can be configured easily using software.
  • MitaYou mean networks can be configured by just making changes to software? That would save a lot of hassle!
  • KinashiThere are a variety of technologies for implementing SDN, but one of the more well-known ones is OpenFlow.
  • MitaSo you'll be talking about OpenFlow now? I'm really looking forward to hearing more.
  • KinashiI appreciate your enthusiasm. Allow me to continue. As I mentioned, conventional networks use an autonomous distributed system whereby each network device has a "brain" of its own, and determines the route, content, and destination for data it sends. I also explained that configuration and changes to each device involved an enormous amount of effort when using this method.
  • MitaYes.
  • KinashiAs distributed systems involve so much effort, the basic idea behind OpenFlow is to manage the entire network with a single large brain. In other words, a single brain that regulates the entire network is placed as a controller, and switches operate according to instructions from the controller, remaining in a transfer role.

A conventional network is an autonomous system in which each device has a brain. OpenFlow is a centralized control system with instructions issued from a single point.

  • MitaI see. So a single controller is created completely separately to the transfer role.
  • KinashiNetworks are defined via software using this OpenFlow approach. In short, networks are defined on the controller. When making changes, as long as they are applied to the controller, the configuration of the entire network can be updated. Is that clear?
  • MitaSo, unlike up until now, you can make changes to just the controller without adjusting the configuration of each device, right!?
  • KinashiYes, and that will greatly reduce the burden of network operation and management. Another important concept of OpenFlow is that it is open for anyone to use. To begin with, OpenFlow is spearheaded by companies that use networks and want to do something to fix their issues, rather than the vendors that provide them.
  • MitaWhat sort of companies are involved?
  • KinashiWell-known examples would be corporations like Google and Yahoo that have established networks on a global scale. Over 90 companies from around the world, including device vendors, telecommunications carriers and software vendors, in addition to these large-scale network user companies, have come together to form an organization called the ONF (Open Networking Foundation), which is forging ahead with the standardization of OpenFlow. Under the premise that whatever the organization settles on will be available to everyone, instead of a certain vendor having exclusive access to knowledge, they are working towards a standard that anyone can use.
  • MitaSo together they're coming up with technology that everyone can access!
  • KinashiExactly. NEC has released products that use OpenFlow. All of us here at NEC want to resolve the issues with conventional networks using OpenFlow to make our solutions more accessible to customers. So we developed our own technology called ProgrammableFlow, which is based on OpenFlow.
  • MitaWhat are the features of ProgrammableFlow?
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