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Openflow: Internet 3.0?

If it’s not broke, then don’t fix it. I may make a living on the cutting edge of technology, but I like that advice. Now, just as we’re finally switching from IPv4 to IPv6 for the Internet’s master protocol, the newly formed Open Network Foundation (ONF) is proposing that we use the OpenFlow as a new standard on how packets are forwarded through network switches and how we’ll manage them.

Was packet switching really broke? Did we need yet another network switch standard? Well, actually, according to the researchers who came up with OpenFlow, we don’t. Instead, according to their 2008 white paper, OpenFlow: Enabling Innovation in Campus Networks (PDF Link): “The basic idea is simple: we exploit the fact that most modern Ethernet switches and routers contain flow-tables (typically built from TCAMs [Ternary Content Addressable Memory) that run at line-rate to implement firewalls, NAT [Network Address Translation], QoS [Quality of Service], and to collect statistics. While each vendor’s flow-table is different, we’ve identified an interesting common set of functions that run in many switches and routers. OpenFlow exploits this common set of functions.”

In other words, the OpenFlow researchers wanted to standardize what a lot of network vendors were already doing.

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