Extreme Networks next up with SDN strategy

Extreme Networks threw its hat into the SDN ring this week by disclosing its programmability strategy for data centers, mobile carrier networks and campuses.

Extreme said it will provide OpenFlow support across its ExtremeXOS-based Ethernet switch line, while supporting multiple OpenFlow controllers including those from NEC and BigSwitch. The company said it will also introduce a plug-in for OpenStack, the open source cloud operating system, to manage network switches using the OpenStack Quantum APIs.

Lastly, Extreme will launch a new Web portal called xKIT for SDN application development.

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Extreme says its ExtremeXOS operating system currently offers a variety of programmability options including APIs, SDKs and specialized applications for centralizing network intelligence, network abstraction, and third party application development.

Adding OpenFlow agents to its switches will allow third-party controllers, like those from NEC and Big Switch, as well as open source controllers, to include Extreme devices in an OpenFlow-based SDN. The OpenFlow capabilities will be available as a technology release in July 2012, and generally available in early 2013, Extreme said.

OpenStack APIs will allow Extreme switches to be involved in SDN orchestration. And the xKIT development portal will enable collaborative SDN application development between Extreme and third-parties, the company said.

Extreme said it will make several SDN applications available via xKIT, such as its VM life-cycle management and user mobility management packages, among others. xKIT will go live in the July.

Analysts say Extreme is reacting to Cisco's recent ONE programmability announcement even though Extreme already had little known programmability features embedded in its switches.

"There are two things that I see at work," says Eric Hanselman of the 451 Group. "First, the general panic that Cisco's ONE announcement has caused in other network hardware vendors. Most vendors seemed to be in a position that, if Cisco hadn't officially embraced OpenFlow/SDN, they didn't need to either and now the inverse is true.

"Second, Extreme is in the interesting position of having to announce capabilities that customers are already using, but that they hadn't really emphasized. Being one of the small number of vendors whose customers had pushed them to get a decent API to automate operations, the move to OpenFlow support isn't that big a deal. Their service provider customers have been doing automated control for a while. With OpenFlow support, they'll have to consolidate things, but it's not a huge change for them.

"I don't think that OpenFlow support, by itself, will win Extreme new customers," Hanselman says.

Others say Extreme's SDN strategy is not that unique.

"Extreme made the case to me that you need 'the right network OS' to make SDN really work," says Jim Metzler of Ashton, Metzler & Associates. "I can buy into that to the extent that I can theorize that some OSs are more suited than others. That said, Extreme did not make much of an attempt to specifically point out what 'uniaspects' of their OS made it easier to support an SDN."

Jim Duffy has been covering technology for over 25 years, 21 at Network World. He also writes The Cisco Connection blog and can be reached on Twitter @Jim_Duffy.

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