Seventeen major technology companies--including Deutsche Telekom, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Verizon and Yahoo--have banded together to develop and promote a new approach to networking called Software-Defined Networking (SDN) through a non-profit foundation, the Open Networking Foundation (ONF). Other founding members of the ONF include Broadcom, Brocade, Ciena, Cisco, Citrix, Dell, Ericsson, Force10, HP, IBM, Juniper Networks, Marvell, NEC, Netgear, NTT, Riverbed Technology and VMware.
SDN promises to make network data handling more efficient and flexible through automation and programming. Existing network switches provide mechanisms for quality-of-service adjustments, allowing network data types to be differentiated or blocked. SDN offers a way to optimize the use of many of these capabilities and to deploy new ones. It could help network switches communicate to determine optimal solutions to network problems.
For example, SDN could assist with re-routing data flows dynamically during a particularly popular online event. It could be used to detect denial of service attacks more efficiently, or to provide the infrastructure to outsource the management of home networks.
"Software-Defined Networking will allow networks to evolve and improve more quickly than they can today," says Urs Hoelzle, ONF president and chairman of the board, as well as senior VP of engineering at Google. "Over time, we expect SDN will help networks become both more secure and more reliable."
Arne Josefsberg, general manager of Windows Azure Infrastructure at Microsoft, says that programmable network management systems would benefit Microsoft's cloud services platform.