For three days this October, a group of computer networking industry heavyweights and academic researchers will assemble at the Li Ka Shing Center at Stanford University for the Open Networking Summit, the first public industry event exclusively focused on a new paradigm known as software-defined networking (SDN) and OpenFlow.
The Open Networking Summit offers a day of hands-on tutorials plus two days of keynote and panel sessions featuring networking thought leaders and influential media.
The names expected to be in attendance reads like a who's-who of the computer industry: Google, Facebook, Verizon, Yahoo!, Microsoft, Internet2, Nicira, Big Switch, Cisco, HP, Juniper, NEC, Ericsson, Arista, UC Berkeley, Princeton, Stanford, Georgia Tech, and Indiana University. Also in attendance will be network and cloud providers, equipment vendors, chip vendors, virtualization vendors, startups, venture capitalists, and investment banks.
Most industry participants are members of the Open Networking Foundation, a non-profit industry consortium whose mission is to standardize OpenFlow and advance software-defined networking.
"The Open Networking Summit will -- for the first time -- bring together the people who want to make SDN and OpenFlow succeed, revolutionizing the field of networking," said Urs Hölzle, a Senior VP of Engineering at Google who is also Chairman of Open Networking Foundation board. "OpenFlow and SDN will accelerate innovation of the Internet infrastructure -- just as the introduction of the PC revolutionized the computer industry in the 1980s."
The Summit itself is the culmination of nearly a decade of close partnership between industry and academia to rethink networking.
"OpenFlow/SDN is a great example of technology transfer from a university to industry," said Nick McKeown, a professor of computer science and electrical engineering and faculty director of Clean Slate Program at Stanford.
Starting in 2003, the National Science Foundation funded a series of programs to rethink the Internet architecture. One such program (known as the "100x100 Project for Clean Slate Design") funded the research of Stanford PhD student Martin Casado. Working with professors at Stanford and Berkeley, Casado started to think how networks could be redesigned, as if from a clean slate, to be more secure, more dependable, and easier to manage. The key ideas from his work led to Software Defined Networking and OpenFlow -- a new way to control network switches and routers.
With further funding from the National Science Foundation, the concepts blossomed into the networking substrate of the Global Environment for Network Innovation (GENI), a nationwide proof-of-concept project that now links nine U.S. universities, including Stanford, University of Washington, Indiana University, University of Wisconsin, Georgia Tech, Clemson, Rutgers, and Princeton.
GENI allows researchers to test new ideas at scale with real traffic. Software Defined Networking and OpenFlow became an important part of the GENI backbone, helping GENI to achieve its goal of experimentation at scale with real applications and users.
Soon thereafter, the networking community began to take note. A group of information technology giants -- including Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Verizon, Deutsche Telekom, Yahoo!, HP, NEC, Dell, Juniper, among many others -- embraced OpenFlow.
The Open Networking Summit will be a major milestone in broader acceptance of OpenFlow/SDN.
"NSF has a long history of investing in foundational computing research that has led to the transfer of knowledge from lab to practice," said Farnam Jahanian, NSF Assistant Director for Computer and Information Science and Engineering. "We are thrilled to see that software defined networking and OpenFlow have became an important part of the GENI backbone, and we look forward to future innovations that build on these important investments."
"The Open Networking Summit is an important part of the technology transfer of OpenFlow/SDN. Here we have a university research idea funded by government now becoming an important new direction for industry," said McKeown. "Much of the credit for where we stand today rests with the National Science Foundation and its early intellectual backing and funding of these ideas."
This article was written by Andrew Myers, associate director of communications for the Stanford School of Engineering.