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ONF Launches New OpenFlow Testing Specification

The Open Networking Foundation this week released a testing specification for version 1.3 of the OpenFlow software-defined networking protocol, a move the organization hopes will increase interoperability of OpenFlow switches and software.

In addition to rolling out the OpenFlow v1.3 testing specification, ONF -- a nonprofit that manages OpenFlow and promotes SDN -- launched a new authorized testing lab in South Korea. With the addition of the Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute, there are now seven authorized testing facilities where vendors can test their products for OpenFlow conformance.

The ONF first launched the OpenFlow Conformance Test Program with the OpenFlow v1.0 test spec two years ago, but by then many vendors were already adopting OpenFlow v1.3, which slowed demand for the certification, Michael Haugh, chairman of the ONF Testing and Interoperability Working Group and product marketing director at Ixia, told me in an interview. The ONF website lists only a handful of OpenFlow conformant products, including NEC and HP switches.

"It's really important the fundamentals of the protocol work correctly so you can deploy services on top of them. With the conformance program, we have established what should be considered the minimum bar," he said.

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With the v1.3 testing specification, the ONF expects vendor demand for OpenFlow certification to increase and more carriers and enterprise customers to require certified products, Haugh said. As a result, the group expects interoperability -- something there hasn't been a lot of with v1.0 -- to increase, he said.

OpenFlow interoperability -- or lack of -- was a topic of discussion at the OpenDaylight Summit in July. In an interview last month, ONF Executive Director Dan Pitt elaborated on the interoperability issue, describing it as complex since vendors want to offer unique capabilities.

He cited ONF's demonstration of its Atrium software distribution on seven different switches as a step towards interoperability. A customer who buys a package from a switch vendor that incorporates Atrium can add switches from other vendors that interoperate on a common subset of limited capabilities, he said.

"Over time, it could be that we see a lot of equipment bought and deployed that's interoperable and solves 80% of customer needs. Then for special cases, they [vendors] do something special," Pitt said. "I think the industry is still trying to figure out what are the common things that it doesn’t need to differentiate around."

Haugh said the OpenFlow v1.3 test specification took longer than the ONF would have liked, but issues such as a lack of ownership of any open source test frameworks posed challenges. The creation of an ONF Software Leadership Council and other changes helped, he said.

The other accredited labs in the ONF OpenFlow Conformance Testing Program include Beijing Internet Institute and the University of New Hampshire InterOperability Lab.