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NoviFlow and Project Stratum

NoviFlow and ONF Announcement of Project Stratum

The ONF just released an announcement of Project Stratum, an open source project to implement an open reference platform for a truly “software defined” data plane. Stratum is being formed to execute on the SDN vision of a programmable network with the active support and participation a number of key industry players including Google, Tencent, China Unicom, NTT, Turk Telekom/Netsia, Delta, Edgecore Networks, and others.

Since the announcement, NoviFlow has received a number of inquiries as to where NoviFlow stands on Project Stratum. This Q&A brings together these questions and lays out NoviFlow’s response and approach towards Stratum.

  • What is NoviFlow’s take on Project Stratum?

Since NoviFlow’s founding six years ago it has been our intent to offer the best platforms for fully-programmable SDN forwarding planes – bar none! During this period, NoviFlow has pioneered the delivery of the fullest expression of SDN in commercial networks around the world, using high-performance mutable pipeline match-action substrates, including most recently the Barefoot Tofino 6.5Tbps chip.

NoviFlow’s NoviWare NOS is unique in the market in having been designed from the ground-up to support programmable match-action pipeline logic, and encompasses over six years of real-world experience in deploying these solutions in commercial networks.

We view Project Stratum as a natural part of the continued evolution of SDN and therefore of our NoviWare NOS, which already supports P4, gNMI and gNOI, and soon will support P4-Runtime as well. It is our belief that Project Stratum will be a key driver in broadening the use of SDN with generalized forwarding abstractions, and thus will significantly grow NoviWare’s addressable market space. We look forward to the coming years with even greater expectations for deployment and accelerated sales growth!

  • Why is Stratum necessary? How did we get here?

    Stratum controller

The expected OpenFlow ecosystem has been slow to develop, limiting the scope of SDN solutions and its customer base. This situation was made worse by industry incumbent driven attempts at scaling back SDN so that it would fit within limitations imposed by legacy network forwarding planes with either fixed pipeline architectures unsuited to the full expression of SDN, or vSwitch based solutions unable to scale sufficiently to meet current throughput demands.

NoviFlow is the market leader in fully programmable SDN forwarding planes. So far the market for this technology has mostly been comprised of tier-1 network operators, webscale infrastructure providers, national governments and large enterprises, and other entities willing to invest in developing the technical depth to build SDN control and application layer solutions themselves.

We see Project stratum as the next evolution of SDN, helping it move beyond this phase of trying to fit the round peg of SDN into the square hole of legacy substrates, and focusing the community on fully programmable pipeline hardware and providing the tools, resources and economic opportunity to drive massive growth of the SDN ecosystem.

  • How does NoviWare fit in with Stratum?

NoviFlow’s NoviWare NOS is unique in having been designed from the ground-up to support programmable match-action pipeline logic, ideal for implementing the Stratum architecture, and offering features and capabilities not open to fixed-pipeline OSes. Furthermore, NoviWare provides a smooth, future-proof evolution path for current SDN installations running OpenFlow to Stratum and P4-Runtime based solutions as these are developed and released.

In fact, NoviWare is already most of the way there in implementing the full requirement set for Stratum as NoviWare is already running on P4 to the Tofino chip, and supports gRPC, with gNMI and gNOI implemented as well.

The NoviWare NOS also provides a single, coherent NOS across Network Processor and Barefoot Tofino based forwarding planes that already supports OpenFlow, amongst other network management and configuration APIs. NoviFlow also has a history of delivering customer-driven enhancements to our NoviWare NOS, with features such as supporting encapsultation/decapsulation for numerous tunneling protocols, setting match fields in packet payload, programmable hashing for load balancing, BFD link monitoring, etc.

NoviWare already supports deployment of SDN applications using the barefoot Tofino chip NOW, and provides SDN solutions a smooth evolution path to P4-Runtime as it and the Stratum ecosystem develop. NoviWare eases adoption and preserves hardware investments by making possible in-service upgrades to forwarding plane, enabling continuous innovation via three major software upgrades annually, and supporting customer-driven customization of features and functions. As to the future, the open nature of Stratum and P4-Runtime only multiplies the options open to NoviFlow for building and adding value to our offerings.

  • Will network users actually want to program network devices themselves?

Our experience with OpenFlow leads us to believe strongly that in addition to those companies that will have the expertise and desire to program their own data plane pipelines, there will be a huge market opportunity for those parties that will package and integrate all this programmability in a demonstrably robust, resilient and scalable solution, supporting advanced network use cases via abstracted interfaces. NoviFlow Support the increase in Operator self-sufficiency by having three levels of offering:

  1. Programmable Fabric Provider: NoviFlow supports OpenFlow/P4-runtime/CLI/other APIs directly to customers who create/program their own control and application layers. NoviFlow also provides customization at network fabric level. dNOS is not there yet and won’t be there for years.
  2. Solution Provider: NoviFlow (and partners) provide and customize pre-programmed solutions and help integrate them with customer Orchestration and Network Infrastructure
  3. API Provider: NoviFlow (and partners) provide standalone systems that offer specific SDN and non-SDN applications and functionalities abstracted behind standard REST APIs (ie. NoviFlow’s DSOs)

NoviFlow is unique in having over six years of market deployment experience in programmable forwarding planes, with a mature product that meets the expectations of even the most demanding networks in the world. NoviFlow also enjoys a history of carrier-grade customer support and rapid user-driven customization, with support of many features not defined in Stratum. These include NoviWare customer-requested features such as:

  • L2MPLS/VxLAN/L2GRE/GTP Tunneling protocols
  • Ethernet/L2MPLS/IP/UPD Payload matching
  • BFD Link Monitoring (Fast Failover)
  • Timestamping/OAM
  • Load balancing (symmetric hash of fields), and more…

And also Operations and Management features including:

  • TACACS+ for AAA services
  • Radius for CLI access control and accounting
  • Access Control Lists (allowed IP addresses) for access control to management ports
  • CLI Log with accessing IP address for configuration change traceability
  • CLI Log export to external Log server
  • SNMP traps for hardware fault alarms
  • Remote reboot
  • gRPC for zero-touch large-scale deployments
  • Load new/rollback to previous s/w revisions
  • Manual and automatic (server based) configuration load and restore
  • Switch configuration export/import in binary and text format

NoviFlow will also offer our “domain specific” network middleware such as NoviFlow’s CyberMapper Treat Intelligence Gateway, for customers and app developers who will be looking for reliable pre-integrated forwarding plane solution partners to do the heavy SDN lifting for them. As Stratum develops, NoviFlow will offer more domain specific middleware solutions that abstract Stratum’s capabilities into simple RESTful APIs, making them accessible to an ever broader community of potential users.

Finally, NoviFlow also has no non-SDN legacy to protect. We are fully invested in the programmable network pipeline, and are committed to leading the industry forward!

  • Will NoviFlow support/join Stratum?

NoviFlow sees Project Stratum as natural evolution along a path that NoviFlow has already been following for six years! NoviFlow is in the process of joining Project Stratum, and will definitely support the Stratum initiative and ecosystem as it develops.