Software-defined networking can enable dynamic, scalable performance over both physical and virtual network elements, but that can only happen with true interoperability between the many elements and associated interfaces. The University of New Hampshire InterOperability Laboratory is taking steps to make the road to interoperability a little smoother.
The UNH-IOL said its Software-Defined Networking (SDN) Consortium will be a "one-stop shop" for SDN controller and switch interoperability, conformance, and benchmark testing. Vendors who become members can have their SDN applications and controllers tested at the independent lab against a variety of SDN switches. Launched Wednesday, the SDN Consortium is scheduled to officially open on Aug. 1.
Timothy Winters, UNH-IOL senior executive of software and IP networking, said the nonprofit lab -- which runs entirely on funding from commercial entities – is making its huge Ethernet switch-filled lab available for all kinds of SDN testing with the goal of fostering industry collaboration. SDN needs to support multi-vendor environments, making interoperability testing key, he said in a webcast announcing the consortium.
He described the SDN Consortium as a group of companies that want to get together to split the cost of testing, which the lab manages with student engineers. The annual membership fee of $20,000 is less expensive for a vendor than having its own in-house test lab, he said. The IOL's 28,000-square-foot facility outside of Boston includes a 4,200-square space dedicated to collaborative group testing, or plugfests.
The lab has one of the most extensive switch test beds in the world, Winters said, making it ideal for testing SDN controllers and applications against a range of switches including ones based on OpenFlow, NETCONF, and RESTCONF. Switch vendors also have access to a variety of controllers, including ones based on OpenDaylight, ONOS, and RYU for regression testing.
Interoperability testing will be available when the consortium opens; conformance and benchmark testing will be conducted at members' request. UNH-IOL is already an approved lab for the Open Networking Foundation OpenFlow Conformance Switch Certification program. Winters said the lab is developing conformance testing for NETCONF and RESTCONF using a tool developed by students at the lab. UNH-IOL also is following standards development around northbound APIs and expects those to become part of its conformance testing as they're defined, he said.
Performance testing will include ONF benchmarking test specifications for controllers and IETF benchmark draft testing, which Winters said has a wider breadth than the ONF specs.
Winters declined to discuss whether the consortium has members yet, but said many vendors are interested.
The SDN Consortium is sort of evolution of the UNH-IOL's work with the ONF and other SDN-related groups. In May, the lab held an ONF AppFest, which tested ONF software against various OpenFlow switch environments and a range of SDN controllers. UNH-IOL also works with the Open Networking User Group (ONUG), and the Open Platform for NFV (OPNFV).
Last fall, UNH-IOL published a list of validated, interoperable combinations of networking gear based on Open Compute Project specifications after launching an open networking testing program that started with a plugfest.
During the webcast, Winters said more than 120 graduate and undergraduate students work at the lab, gaining valuable hands-on experience. Students are easy to work with, he said. Without ingrained ways of doing things, students are quick to pick up SDN concepts.