Cisco looks at extending OpFlex

Policy protocol could wind up on legacy gear… if it can support it


LAS VEGAS -- Cisco says it is looking into extending its OpFlex policy protocol, unveiled this week at Interop, to legacy platforms such as the Catalyst 6500.

Cisco is evaluating whether legacy platforms could support OpFlex natively or through translation via some sort of proxy, says Jeff Reed, vice president and general manager of manageability and SDN in Cisco’s Enterprise Networking Group. OpFlex is currently supported on Cisco’s Nexus 9000, 7000 and 1000V switches, ASR 9000 router, and Sourcefire security products.

“We’re actively investigating the extension of OpFlex but there could be platform limitations,” Reed said at the Interop trade show and conference.

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OpFlex is an alternative to OpenFlow and the Open vSwitch Database Management protocol, supported by VMware, as a southbound SDN/programmability protocol sharing information between a control element and a network device. While OpenFlow is used to instruct switches and routers on how they should be configured to support an application, OpFlex shares application policy information with switches and routers, which then retain the intelligence to configure themselves to adhere to that policy.

OpFlex will be a vital southbound protocol in Cisco’s Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI), its non-SDN response to SDNs. Cisco is also proposing OpFlex as a standard within the IETF and submitting it, and a northbound Group Policy API to the OpenDaylight open source SDN consortium. Some ACI ecosystem partners are also expected to support OpFlex.

Reed said Cisco’s Unified Access Data Plane (UADP) ASIC, announced about a year ago, can support some newer protocols that emerged after UADP. UADP is a programmable ASIC that are on Cisco’s Catalyst 3650 and 3850 switches, and 5760 wireless LAN controller.

Cisco says the Group Policy API it submitted to OpenDaylight along with IBM, Plexxi and Midokura, now belongs to OpenDaylight. Whatever direction OpenDaylight decides to take the northbound API, Cisco will support it in its ACI policy controller even though that controller will likely ship with a previous version, says Lauren Cooney, Cisco senior director of software strategy in the Chief Technology and Architecture Office.

Jim Duffy has been covering technology for over 27 years, 22 at Network World. He also writes The Cisco Connection blog and can be reached on Twitter @Jim_Duffy.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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