Open SDN

Big Switch Networks Open SDN Suite provides unmatched network agility, choice in network hardware, and optimized network operations.

The networking industry has been stuck in the “mainframe era” with vertically integrated hardware and software systems that are built upon proprietary architectures, and are substantially the same as they were decades ago. These legacy network architectures create operational fragility, drive excessively long provisioning times, and result in unnecessarily high operational costs. The shift towards Software-Defined Networking represents the most transformative architectural trend in nearly 20 years, delivering unmatched network agility, choice in networking hardware and optimized network operations.

Software-defined networking (SDN) is a modern approach to networking that eliminates the complex and static nature of legacy distributed network architectures through the use of a standards-based software abstraction between the network control plane and underlying data forwarding plane, including both physical and virtual devices. This standards-based data plane abstraction, called OpenFlow, provides a novel approach to dynamically provision the network fabric from a centralized softwarebased controller.

An open SDN platform with centralized software provisioning delivers dramatic improvements in your network agility via programmability and automation, while substantially reducing the cost of your network operations. And using an industry standard data plane abstraction protocol like OpenFlow, you are now free to use any type and brand of data plane devices, since all the underlying network hardware is addressable through a common abstraction protocol. Importantly, OpenFlow facilitates the use of “bare metal switches” and eliminates traditional vendor lock-in, giving you freedom of choice in networking like you have in other areas of your IT infrastructure, such as servers. SDN controllers also expose APIs northbound, which allow you to deploy a wide range of off-the-shelf and custom-built network applications – many of which were fundamentally not feasible prior to the advent of SDN.

Compared to legacy networking architectures that are vertically integrated from the underlying hardware, through the operating system, and into the network application functionality, the inherently open nature of an SDN represents a fundamental shift in power giving you choice, agility and automation of network operations not previously possible.

Big Switch Networks Open SDN 3-tier architecture

The Big Switch Networks Open SDN is based on a three-tier architecture

  • Northbound open APIs 
  • An open-core controller
  • Southbound standards-based data plane communication protocols.

1) Northbound Open APIs - Open APIs refer to the software interfaces in between the software modules of the controller platform and the SDN applications running atop the network platform. The Open SDN architecture focuses on Northbound APIs, which expose the universal network abstraction data models and functionality within the Big Network Controller for use by network applications. These interfaces are published and open to customers, partners, and the open source community for development. The Open APIs enable maximum utility of the Open SDN architecture through the ecosystem of customers and partners developing on the platform.

2) Open Core Controller – At the center of the Open SDN architecture is an open core controller named “Floodlight”, which maintains API consistency with the Big Switch Networks commercial controller – Big Network Controller. Applications written for Floodlight will work with Big Network Controller. Floodlight is distributed under Apache License Version 2.0, which provides customers and application developers with maximum investment protection since their SDN architecture will always remain independent of vendor interests.

3) Standards-based Southbound Protocols - Big Switch Networks focuses on standards-based connectivity for the “Southbound Protocols,” which define the control communications between the controller platform and data plane devices, including physical and virtual switches. While the majority of the Big Switch Networks’ current development efforts have been dedicated towards the OpenFlow protocol, the Open SDN architecture is flexible and can leverage other protocols in addition to Openflow.  Support for a wide range of physical and virtual switches, including switching manufactured by ecosystem partners and switches based upon the Switch Light thin switching software platform, ensure that customers have maximum choice and flexibility designing and deploying their software-defined network.

Rochan Sankar Director, Product Marketing, Network Switch
Broadcom Corporation