Accelerating SDN Adoption Through Industry’s First Standardized SDN Solution Test


by Srini Seetharaman

It is an exciting time in the networking world, when the first application of Software-defined Networking (SDN) — Network Virtualization — is starting to be commercially available in the market. I would even argue that the need for a mechanism to achieve network virtualization is the primary driver for SDN being adopted by several vendors. The first set of SDN solutions that provide network virtualization, however, have a certain degree of vertical integration: Each solution provides its own management, control and data plane elements. Rollout of this vertically integrated solution, with several moving parts, is non-trivial.

What is Network Virtualization? In a nutshell, Network Virtualization (analogous to server virtualization) is the process of decoupling and isolating virtual networks of individual users from the underlying physical network hardware. The key value proposition of Software-defined Networking (SDN) is to enable the provisioning and operation of virtual networks. Additionally, SDN empowers cloud networks to be more agile and automated. Typical benefits achieved by SDN include automated configuration of virtual networks, dynamic migration of workload, elastic scaling of infrastructure, and workload bursting over hybrid clouds. On the deployment front, the two most popular approaches to deploying SDN-based network virtualization are the following:

  1. Overlay: Edge servers are programmed to form intelligent overlays;

  2. Fabric: SDN-enabled top-of-rack physical switches are deployed.

Although there are solutions available from several SDN vendors, the cloud service providers and enterprises have a hard time in selecting the solution that is right for their environment. The four main challenges in this selection are 1) the unclear differentiation between each solution, 2) the lack of standardized methodologies to evaluate the different offerings, 3) task force that is not ready for the new technology, and 4) the need for resources to evaluate solutions. The Open Networking User Group (ONUG) board recognized these challenges early on and endeavored to make the SDN adoption easier by organizing the industry’s first-ever free-to-participate SDN test for vendors in Fall 2013. This test called the ONUG SDN Test is organized in collaboration between Nick Lippis, Srini Seetharaman, and Ixia Inc.

The goal of this first SDN test is to provide an unbiased 3rd party comparison of the different SDN solutions for network virtualization; note that this is not just an OpenFlow test or just a vSwitch test, but rather a test of the complete solution. We invite all SDN vendors that offer network virtualization solutions the opportunity to participate in the ONUG SDN test, free of charge. The tests will be conducted at Ixia’s iSimCity during the weeks of September 30th and October 7th, 2013. Each vendor will be allocated a day to run the test. The test results will be publicly announced at the Lippis Enterprises’ Fall 2013 ONUG™ Conference in Manhattan, on October 29 and 30, 2013.

To support this test, the ONUG board and I collaborated in developing a standard methodology towards evaluating network virtualization solutions. This methodology will also be made openly available to the community. Since the test of SDN-based Network Virtualization should work with all approaches (including the overlay and the fabric based ones), our test methodology is designed to be agnostic to the exact SDN approach and the SDN control plane design. The tests treat the platform for Network Virtualization as a black box, and tests its characteristics by emulating a virtualized cloud data center network and its users.


The ONUG SDN Test will consist of 3 performance tests and 1 functionality test. The performance tests, which seek to measure scale, reliability and resource utilization, are individually defined for data plane, control plane and management plane functions. On the other hand, the functionality tests verify the basic set of features required from network virtualization. The complete test methodology and the test scripts will be open-sourced after the ONUG event.

We hope you are as excited as us in seeing the results of this first-ever test. We are confident that the ONUG SDN Test and its standardized test methodologies will accelerate adoption of SDN solutions by the community, thereby unlocking further value propositions and innovation!

Note to SDN vendors — Help the community’s adoption of SDN by signing up for the ONUG SDN Test by Friday, August 30, 2013. For more information, contact Nick Lippis.

Author bio:

Srini SeetharamanSrini Seetharaman is the Technical Lead for Software-defined Networking (SDN) at Deutsche Telekom Innovation Center. Between 2008-2011, he was a member of the OpenFlow/SDN team at Stanford University, where he lead the SDN deployments in several nation-wide campus enterprise networks, including Stanford. He holds a Ph.D. in Computer Science from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

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