What Is OpenFlow?

OpenFlow is a technology standard for computer network administration. OpenFlow was designed by academic researchers with the goal of making the behavior of network routers, network switches and other access points programmable, Industry companies have subsequently been adopting this technology for business applications.

What OpenFlow Does

OpenFlow allows administrators to centrally control how routers and switches manage their data routing decisions. Whereas in traditional networks each device is configured by an administrator with the necessary policies, in an OpenFlow-enabled network, the policies are programmed on all switches and routers as a group..Policies can be changed and devices re-programmed through the same interfaces.

In academic settings, OpenFlow gets used a way to experiment with customized network routing protocols. in data centers, OpenFlow can help greatly simplify management of virtual servers and similar re-provisioning applications.

How OpenFlow Works

OpenFlow establishes one central service device on the network as an OpenFlow Controller. This Controller establishes connections with OpenFlow aware routers and switches and sends commands to them over a specific network protocol (that typically runs over TCP/IP). These commands tell the receiving devices to update their logic (sometimes called forwarding tables) for processing packets. Routers and switches can also send messages (primarily error notifications) back to the Controller in return.

Issues With OpenFlow

Routers and switches must implement the OpenFlow protocol logic in order for them to be controllable. A business which has deployed larger amounts of legacy hardware must undertake a significant effort and expense to upgrade their environment to work with the protocol.

The concept of programmable devices is new to many administrators. Training and certification programs for OpenFlow are much less mature than those for traditional network technologies. Businesses may find difficulty finding the right talent to help them adopt OpenFlow.

Alternative approaches to Software Defined Networking beside OpenFlow exist. With the industry evolving quickly, it is possible for a newer standard to emerge that quickly supersedes OpenFlow and so limits the return on investment a business can achieve by adopting it.