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

  • KinashiProgrammableFlow is NEC technology based on OpenFlow that aims to add the three features of virtualization, visualization, and simplification to create networks that are more scalable and programmable.
  • MitaVirtualization, visualization, and simplification? Scalable, programmable?
  • KinashiPut plainly, it enables networks to be defined virtually, and shows how they are connected visually, while also making network configuration simple. By the way, NEC was the first in the world to release a product using OpenFlow(*), and we were also actually the first to implement it at a company.
    * Our UNIVERGE PF Series enterprise products implement ProgrammableFlow.

Visualizing communication paths to lighten the burden on operational administrators (visualization)

Implementing a virtual network without worrying about physical composition (virtualization)

Networks can be expanded flexibly in response to growth (simplification)

  • MitaI never knew that. But how was NEC able to create a product ahead of its competitors, when so many companies are involved in the standardization of OpenFlow?
  • KinashiBecause we saw the potential for OpenFlow at an early stage, and worked diligently toward implementing it. OpenFlow began as a collaborative research project between Stanford University in the U.S., NEC, and others. NEC has also participated in the ONF standard-setting organization I talked about earlier since its establishment. On top of that, NEC is one of the few companies in the world with both computer and network technology.
  • MitaI see. How about now, then? Have competitors released any products yet?
  • KinashiYes, other companies are also currently creating products that use OpenFlow, but they appear to be designed for research applications at laboratories and universities first. On the other hand, NEC is focused on providing commercial products for actual business tasks. This is because use in a business environment can uncover unexpected information that wouldn't be identified in a laboratory.
  • MitaWhat do you mean by unexpected information?
  • KinashiFor example, finding that the volume of data is more concentrated on certain lines than forecast, or discovering data flows that user wasn't aware of. These kinds of unexpected information crop up. Based on this valuable experience that we wouldn't have obtained in a research environment, we can improve the product together with the customer, and work on developing new functions to offer better solutions. That's why we are focused on commercial environments. In addition to applying the information we gather in this way to our products, it also helps NEC contribute to standardization at ONF. We certainly don't keep a monopoly on this knowledge.
  • MitaIt seems like it would benefit NEC to keep this information from competitors, though.
  • KinashiNo, no. By making these details open, a range of manufacturers can take part, creating new products and services and benefitting customers. This process helps revitalize and expand the market, so we believe there are significant advantages for vendors, too.
  • MitaI see. So NEC is leading the way by sticking with commercialization, giving the market for OpenFlow a boost at the same time.
  • KinashiExactly! Incidentally, NEC has already implemented OpenFlow in over 100 systems around the world, including data centers, universities, government offices, financial institutions, and telecommunications carriers. Among those companies that have implemented our products is Nippon Express, who reported that their outsourcing costs for network configuration changes went from around 6 million a year to zero. Kanazawa University Hospital, who deployed our solution to reduce the operational load on their internal network, also estimated they would be able to cut their staff costs for network operation management to one fifth of the previous amount.

Results of Nippon Express implementing ProgrammableFlow

  • MitaSo customers who have implemented this technology have seen concrete results, huh? It seems like the next big wave of new network technology is about to hit us, which is exciting!
  • KinashiOf course, there are plenty of good things about conventional networks, so there isn't a need to migrate all existing networks to OpenFlow. I wouldn't want that to be misunderstood. I hope we can take the best parts of both approaches to build networks that are tailored to each job, and even more convenient.
  • MitaPlease keep striving to provide world-leading solutions! Thank you for this very worthwhile discussion today.
  • KinashiThank you, too. I appreciate you sticking with it to the end.

Conclusion
In this installment, we heard about the new OpenFlow network technology that is bringing a sea change to networks, as well as NEC's ProgrammableFlow technology based on it. I got a sense of the importance of networks, which we tend to take for granted, and I also learned about the various issues associated with them. To resolve these issues, many companies have come together to work on standardizing OpenFlow, and NEC is leading the pack and inspiring others to pick up the pace! I look forward to seeing how networks develop in the future. See you in the next installment of "MiTA TV"!

(Published June 5, 2013)

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