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Cisco ends the SDN suspense

Unveils Cisco ONE architecture and strategy for instilling programmability into its network gear

By , Network World
June 13, 2012 11:32 AM ET

Network World - SAN DIEGO -- At long last, the wait - and suspense - is over. Or is it just beginning?

Cisco today rolled out its vision and architecture for instilling programmability throughout a Cisco network - a blueprint the company says goes far beyond the OpenFlow and Software-Defined Networking (SDN) schemes most competitors are proposing.

THE TIMES THEY ARE A 'CHANGIN': OpenFlow and SDN: Networking's Future?

BACKGROUND: Critical milestones in Cisco history

But with Cisco’s vast installed base entrenched in doing things the way they’ve been done for decades, it’s unclear how the technology roll out. And rather than making an immediate difference , Cisco will release Cisco ONE in phases, meaning customers will implement it in phases – so its uptake and impact may be barely detectable to anyone other than those deploying it.

Cisco's strategy is called the Open Network Environment, or Cisco ONE, previously referred to as Cisco OPEN or COPE. Cisco ONE is designed to enable Cisco networks to be flexible and customizable to meet the needs of newer networking and IT trends such as cloud, mobility, social networking and video.

Cisco unveiled the architecture at the CiscoLive! user conference here this week.

Cisco ONE includes APIs, agents and controllers, and overlay network technologies designed to make each layer of a network - from the transport layer up through the management and orchestration layers - programmable in order to make it adaptable and extensible to changing needs.

This differs, Cisco says, from more commonplace approaches to SDNs in which the control plane is decoupled from the forwarding plane and OpenFlow is used as an API, agent and protocol to command switches from an external controller.

Cisco says Cisco ONE complements this approach by opening up areas above and below the control and forwarding planes addressed by OpenFlow. This allows customers to program the network using a variety of protocols - not just OpenFlow - and further customize it according to their usage patterns and deployment models.

Cisco ONE includes the One Platform Kit (onePK) which provides APIs for developers across Cisco's routing and switching operating systems: IOS, IOS-XR and NX-OS. Cisco onePK support will roll out on Cisco platforms in phases, with initial support on the ASR 1000 and ISR G2 routers. The Cloud Connector software that Cisco unveiled this week for those routers supports onePK APIs for third-party development, the company says.

Deployment  models for onePK will differ depending on the customer – enterprise, service provider, cloud service provider, data center, and academia/research – so once onePK is fully implemented and installed in Cisco’s customer base, will anyone really notice or care if it’s SDN or not? And in the time it takes for it to infiltrate Cisco’s base, will there really be a seismic shift in the industry towards non-Cisco OpenFlow/SDN/programmability/network virtualization solutions?    

Trust and familiarity and non-disruption may be on Cisco’s side here.

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