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OpenFlow vs. NetConf and BGP… WAIT A MINUTE!!!

The empire strikes back at SDN and OpenFlow by sowing FUD and fostering  misunderstanding.

I’ve recently seen a spate of articles stating that networks managers are choosing ALTERNATIVES to OpenFlow such as  NETCONF, BGP, OVSDB, XMPP and MPLS-TP! Well, with increasing acceptance of OpenFlow and the threat of new OpenFlow-centric entrants in the networking market, the incumbents are mobilizing their troops to sow FUD and slow down the inevitable erosion of their proprietary technology fed margins.

The most recent tactic of the empire to strike back at SDN and OpenFlow is fostering a total misunderstanding of how OpenFlow is used in networks, implying that the adoption of OpenFlow equates with the abandonment of all the familiar protocols used to connect networks together, and worse-still, requires a dreaded fork-lift upgrade! Of course, folks with more than passing knowledge of SDN and OpenFlow fully understanding that OpenFlow was designed specifically to work with and in existing networks in a transparent fashion, adding new capabilities and providing a whole new toolset for solving network problems. But such folks also know that nothing prevents existing (even legacy) protocols from being implemented in an OpenFlow context, and that there are indeed significant advantages to be gained in doing so! This spate of FUD articles is meant not for these folks, but rather for those that don’t yet have much knowledge of SDN/OpenFlow, and whose opinions can still be influenced in such a way as to prevent them from having a taste of SDN and keep from sipping any cool-aid other than the incumbents’.

It certainly does not change things that these claims are preposterous. One such article just this past week asks if the NETCONF protocol give OpenFlow a run for its money! The basic premise of this article promotes a fundamental misunderstanding of OpenFlow: it places OpenFlow in opposition to “NETCONF, BGP, OVSDB, XMPP and MPLS” whereas ALL of these protocols are used in conjunction with OpenFlow!

OFConfig (an instantiation of NetConf!) is the OpenFlow configuration protocol for physical devices (such as our NoviSwitches), just as OVSDB fills that role for OpenFlow v-switches (OvS). As to BGP, it is implemented as an OpenFlow application in a variety of OpenFlow solutions, including NoviFlow’s Scale-out Router solution and the ONF’s Atrium project. NoviFlow has also implemented MPLS based QoS and tunneling solutions, and we are even running a PoC at CENGN in Ottawa!

Saying that the choice is either OpenFlow or any of these other protocols is showing a fundamental ignorance of OpenFlow and its role in networks, and I suggest the reader to go to to get a more accurate picture of OpenFlow and how it is used – and that includes in conjunctions WITH  NETCONF, BGP, OVSDB, XMPP and MPLS!

And by the way, stay tuned to this channel! Over the next year, NoviFlow will be introducing a series of solutions that not only implement BGP, MPLS and other traditional network protocols, but that amply demonstrate how they can be made even better and enable new business when implemented using SDN and OpenFlow!

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