NEC to ship OpenFlow switch for Microsoft Windows Server 8 Hyper-V

Chalk up another big partnership win for Microsoft's Hyper-V from the world of virtual, programmable switching. NEC's OpenFlow-based network fabric, ProgrammableFlow, will be integrated with Windows Server 8 and Hyper-V when Windows Server 8 becomes available, NEC says.

Microsoft has not formally revealed when that will be, although years ago Redmond promised a 2012 delivery date and it previewed developer versions of the Windows 8 client and server operating systems at its BUILD conference earlier this month.

TAKE A PEEK: Windows Server 8 First Looks 

This follows Microsoft's coup, also earlier this month, with Cisco in which Cisco said it was creating a Nexus 1000V Series virtual switch designed to support Windows Server 8's Hyper-V 3.0. 

The NEC announcement is interesting for network professionals interested in exploring a standardized, open source virtual switch like OpenFlow's software-defined networking architecture. NEC's new product, dubbed for now as the ProgrammableFlow vPFS Virtual Switch for Windows Server 8, will make use of new capabilities coming in Windows Server 8. It will offer features like network policy mobility, monitoring, programmability for Hyper-V environments. The virtual switch will include multi-path load balancing functions.

An OpenFlow-based virtual switch offers advantages to both Microsoft and Hyper-V users compared to Cisco's approach, says an NEC spokesperson. "Cisco presented Nexus 1000v which is a proprietary solution. However, NEC is based on OpenFlow which is an open solution, which is an advantage for Microsoft because it will not be locked in to any particular vender. Also, NEC's solution doesn't change any packet format such as adding tags," the spokesperson told Network World.

OpenFlow is an open source protocol for software-defined networking, meaning system builders can modify it and users can program it to define the paths their network traffic should take and under what conditions, regardless of the underlying hardware. OpenFlow puts more network design controls into the hands of the system builders, application developers and network architects compared to traditional switches that use proprietary software and controls.

While NEC wouldn't release pricing specifics, the spokesperson also promised, "NEC's OpenFlow is a fraction of the cost of alternative solutions for typical data center deployments."

Background: Q&A with OpenFlow's inventor

The vPFS Virtual Switch for Windows Server 8 will tap into Hyper-V's Extensible Switch API, too extending a network administrator's custom programming options even further. The virtual network can be "configured and monitored with one central control and network traffic can be visualized from end to end," says NEC.

NEC demonstrated ProgrammableFlow operating in a Windows Server 8 environment at the recent Microsoft BUILD developer conference in Anaheim, Calif.

Julie Bort is the editor of Network World's Microsoft Subnet and Open Source Subnet communities. She writes the Microsoft Update and Source Seeker blogs. Follow Bort on Twitter @Julie188.

Read more about data center in Network World's Data Center section.

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