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ONF Sets Off to Find SDN’s Northbound Interfaces

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ONF Sets Off to Find SDN’s Northbound Interfaces

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NBI Northbound Interfaces SDN ONF Open Networking Foundation

The newly formed Northbound Interfaces Working Group at the Open Networking Foundation now has a chairman — Sarwar Raza of HP — and a goal to deliver working code by the end of 2014.

As ONF Executive Director Dan Pitt had said when he announced the group in October, the goal is not out to create a single, standard northbound interface, because many distinct interfaces are likely to be needed. Instead, the NBI group is going to concentrate on particular use cases. It’s chosen a few, one being network virtualization for the cloud and data center, but isn’t disclosing much detail yet.

The end results will be information models, data models, code, and prototypes — “commonly agreed-upon abstractions that can be implemented in pick-your-favorite-controller or by pick-your-favorite-app,” Raza says.

The ONF had been focusing on shepherding the OpenFlow standard and promoting the protocol’s use as a “substrate” for software-defined networking (SDN). But the idea of expanding its scope into northbound interfaces has been kicked around for a while. Late in 2012, the ONF’s Architecture and Framework Working Group started a survey that would eventually confirm a need for formal work in this area.

“There are enough controller vendors, app vendors, and users saying it’s about time,” Raza says.

That interest manifested itself when a nearly impromptu workshop held in the Bay Area two weeks ago attracted 80 participants, Raza said. The meeting was open to anyone, not just ONF members, and it drew particular interest from the OpenDaylight Project. “At one point there were enough technical steering committee members of OpenDaylight in the room that they could have called a quorum and held a meeting,” Raza says.

Raza doesn’t expect OpenDaylight to produce northbound interfaces in the same way the ONF plans to.

“OpenDaylight is really just a code-producing organization. They don’t see themselves driving for standardization or driving toward the multicontroller, multivendor sort of effort we’re trying to do,” he says. “I would hope that if we’re successful, some of our definitions land in OpenDaylight.”

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