Broadcom hopes to help OpenFlow take off with new chip integration

Broadcom is demonstrating the technology with Big Switch Networks

Chip maker Broadcom has announced a new specification along with software and APIs to improve the performance of OpenFlow switches and to make it easier for hardware vendors to build products.

OpenFlow is used to implement SDN (software-defined networking), and enables a standardized way of delivering a centralized, programmable network that can quickly adapt to changing network conditions, Broadcom said.

But for the advantages of the concept to be realized someone has to build the hardware and the applications, and that's what Broadcom's OF-DPA (OpenFlow-Data Plane Abstraction) version 1.0 is meant to help with, according to the chip maker.

OF-DPA defines and implements a hardware abstraction layer that maps Broadcom's StrataXGS switch chipsets to OpenFlow 1.3.1 switches and pipelines. The pipelines are a basic part of the OpenFlow architecture and are made up of linked tables that provide forwarding and packet modifications.

The chip maker's goal is to increase the availability of "production-quality" OpenFlow 1.3.1 switches as well as provide a reference platform for academic and industrial research networks, according to Broadcom. OF-DPA can be used to implement functionality such as network virtualization, multi-tenant networks and traffic engineering, and future versions will add more features, it said.

OF-DPA was announced at the Open Networking Summit, which takes place this week in Santa Clara, California. At the event, Big Switch Networks is demonstrating Broadcom's software running on Open Network Linux, a distribution for bare metal switches that runs underneath Big's commercial Switch Light OS.

Brocade also announced support for OpenFlow 1.3 at the event.

A beta version of OF-DPA version 1.0 software is available now from GitHub with the generally available version expected in March, according to Broadcom. An API library, an application development kit, and a programmer's guide are also available.

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