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Huawei Overtaking the SDN Industry– Huawei's Shannon Laboratory Takes the Lead in Industry Tests

By Luo Min, Chief Architect and Future Network Research Director, Huawei Shannon Laboratory

Wu Chou, Huawei Chief IT Scientist and Shannon Laboratory Chairman

Network transformations brought about by SDN will significantly reshape telecommunications and enterprise networks. Huawei's Shannon Laboratory started the SmartNet project in February 2012. By leveraging the profound wealth of knowledge in computer, network, and software engineering possessed by the project team, we were able to find solutions quickly to key problems in the SDN industry and make spectacular breakthroughs in SDN control and forwarding technologies. Armed with these advanced SDN technologies, we proudly aced the PlugFest test organized by the Open Networking Foundation (ONF) and the SDN interoperability test, which was primarily oriented towards carriers and organized by the European Advanced Networking Test Center (EANTC).

SDN technology has informationalized networks. This is a longstanding concept, but was seriously proposed only in recent years. SDN isolates network control management and data forwarding at the bottom layer and optimizes network resource usage by means of centralized control. This is based on network topology, status sensing, and traffic features and meets QoS requirements for various applications and flows. It also dramatically simplifies network management and reduces operating expenditures while increasing network resource utilization. The OpenFlow protocol provides interfaces (southbound APIs) for a Smart Network OpenFlow Controller (SOX) and OpenFlow switches under its management, introducing an era of SDN transformations. The challenges involved in designing and implementing the network controller and the OpenFlow switches far exceeded expectations, causing a somewhat delayed evolution of SDN technologies from OpenFlow1.0 to OpenFlow1.2/1.3. This technology evolution also involves painstaking efforts by the SDN industry as a whole.

Industry-Leading Performance in Key Technology Development

The SmartNet project team of Huawei's Shannon Laboratory has developed advanced SDN technologies after analyzing prevalent design implementations, such as the introduction of the Model Driven Architecture-Development (MDA-D) best practice, industry-leading Software Service-Defined Networking (SSDN), and Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA), as well as entire SDN architecture and SDN SOX architecture. Such breakthroughs resolved some tough problems facing SDN, like northbound interfaces and horizontal extensions.

Huawei introduced MDA-D architecture to SDN, created a highly scalable SDN controller model, and developed the first broad-based SDN SOX in the industry. SOX manages the hybrid network on which various and even incompatible OpenFlow-standard switches are deployed and resolves the network dissolution caused by OpenFlow (OpenFlow1.0 and 1.2) backward-incompatibility. The SOX architecture provides a broad control mechanism for a hybrid network where switches with varied southbound APIs are deployed. It also meets various open API requirements, boasts compatibility with switches from a variety of vendors, and supports dynamic network topology discovery, standard version discovery/negotiation, and link control. As a result, the SOX architecture offers high compatibility, flexibility, and scalability, becoming a benchmark in the SDN network controller industry.

Outshining All Contenders

In early October 2012, Huawei participated in the PlugFest test organized by ONF and exhibited the industry's first broad-based SOX capable of controlling hybrid SDNs. This SOX, deployed on a hybrid network where various OpenFlow-standard switches from different vendors were deployed, successfully completed dynamic topology discovery, feature discovery, version negotiation, and three-layer network configuration management. This was the first time SDN switches of different OpenFlow versions were successfully interworked on a hybrid network.

At the end of October, the first SDN World Congress was held in Germany. There, Wu Chou, Huawei Chief IT Scientist and Shannon Laboratory Chairman, gave a speech entitled "SDN for Service Oriented Data Networking," released the white paper "SOX – A Generalized and Extensible Smart Network OpenFlow Controller," and announced an attempt to develop SDN control and management technologies based on best software engineering practices and MDA-D-capable SDN software architecture. These all drew wide attention.

At the first China SDN & Open Networking Summit held in Beijing on December 6, 2012, Huawei displayed SOX hybrid networking and some OpenFlow1.2-based functions. Luo Min, Chief Architect and Future Network Research Director at Huawei's Shannon Laboratory, gave a talk entitled "Software Engineering for Software-Defined and Future Networking."

From February 4-8, 2013, Huawei SOX and OpenFlow1.2-based switches participated in the first carrier-network-oriented SDN interoperability test organized by the EANTC. Huawei provided the only solution that passed the OpenFlow1.2-based advanced test.

From March 19-21, 2013, the 2nd SDN Summit & 15th MPLS and Ethernet World Congress were held in Paris. The EANTC organized the first carrier-network-oriented SDN interoperability exhibition, which attracted major vendors. Huawei SOX and OpenFlow1.2 switches, as the core of clock synchronization, worked for the first time with the traditional IP network to control a hybrid network on which OpenFlow1.0- and OpenFlow1.2-capable switches were deployed. This system presented a striking four days of uninterrupted services at the summit.

On June 8, 2013, the Huawei SOX and OpenFlow1.3-based SDN switch SN-640 passed the PlugFest test organized by the SDN Lab at Indiana University, US, and held an increasingly distant lead over contenders in the SDN industry. The Huawei SOX's full control over the hybrid network on which OpenFlow (OpenFlow1.0 to OpenFlow1.3) standard switches were deployed impressed the ONF and all vendor participants. Huawei also identified almost all problems with the OpenFlow1.3-capable switches and provided a solid foundation for other vendors to rapidly resolve these issues. The SN-640 outshone all counterparts in terms of full support for OpenFlow1.3 and was the only switch that supported a forwarding architecture based on four or more flow tables. In this architecture, the forwarding capacity reaches up to 960 Mbit/s, and the bi-directional forwarding rate reaches up to 1.28 Tbit/s (48 x 10 GE + 4 x 40 GE).

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