Huawei has launched an innovative software-defined networking (SDN) forwarding plane technology named Protocol-Oblivious Forwarding (POF). POF aims to evolve the Open Networking Foundation’s OpenFlow protocol towards a more flexible programming model where forwarding devices are no longer limited by pre-defined packet protocols or forwarding rules. Huawei will demonstrate prototypes, based on POF SDN technology, at next week’s Open Networking Summit in Santa Clara, California.
Protocol-Oblivious Forwarding will allow network operators to reduce their CAPEX/OPEX and provide more flexible capabilities to conventional IP networks, including real-time service-oriented network abstraction and management. In a software-defined network using the POF technology, network forwarding devices can be efficiently programmed by software, allowing more rapid deployment of new services without the need to upgrade hardware.
With Protocol-Oblivious Forwarding, the data plane hardware is not limited by hard¬wired protocol implementations. Packet forwarding processes are defined by software in a controller which can program forwarding devices via fine-grained forwarding instructions (including data offsets and lengths). This software-based programming is flexible and the actual packet processing and forwarding is performed by the program in forwarding devices (i.e. packets do not flow through the controller).
Huawei has developed POF prototypes based on the NE5000E core router platform and has tested the forwarding of multiple services. This testing has shown that, with POF, the forwarding devices no longer need to directly support specific protocols and those requirements around forwarding performance are successfully met in various scenarios.
“Our hope is to help accelerate the pace of innovation for open SDN and future-proof evolution of networks. Carriers and users of networks in particular can benefit from more flexible switches and can reduce the total cost of ownership by focusing on building simpler, fit-for-purpose networks where only required forwarding behaviors need to be programmed in each switch. Such forwarding plane evolution technologies help remove protocol dependency in forwarding devices and can ultimately enable support of any existing/customized packet-based protocols via generic instructions. We believe that openness and software-based programmability of forwarding devices can help increase the adoption of OpenFlow, particularly in the carrier space where we see a huge potential for simplification.” said Dr. Justin Joubine Dustzadeh, VP of Technology Strategy & CTO of Networks at Huawei Technologies.
“With the POF technology, user-defined fields can be added to packets to implement advanced network functions. Forwarding devices will be able to more flexibly support layer 4-7 services and enable network functions virtualization (NFV) through programming of the POF engine.”
Huawei is actively contributing to the standardization of SDN within the ONF and is partnering with operators, research institutes and other equipment vendors to help bring the open SDN vision to reality.