ONUG to Test Existence of SDN, Not Just Performance

The Open Networking User Group is calling for software-defined networking vendors to pitch in for a test bed that will allow end-user companies to try out esoteric network architectures.

ONUG announced today that it needs 10 networking vendors to help set up a temporary facility to test the performance, stability, reliability and functionality of software-defined network (SDN) products, the results of which will be presented at the two-day ONUG Fall meeting (Oct. 29-30 in New York).

Test-bed networks that let network architects and managers play with cutting-edge networking products are routine at enterprise network conferences, but the intent of this one has a little more edge than most, according to ONUG co-founder and Chairman Nick Lippis.

Rather than just helping vendors demonstrate how well their products play with others in realistic network configurations, the ONUG SDN network virtualization test is designed to help confused network architects and managers tell the difference between products built mainly from hype and those genuinely ready for production networks.

“As IT business leaders begin piloting and deploying open networking solutions, scalability, reliability, performance, and feature verification of available solutions have arisen as critical issues,” Lippis wrote in a release announcing the testing plan.

Simply put, software-defined networking is so new and so broadly defined that it is difficult for many companies to get a realistic idea of what SDN can do for them, let alone which products or combination of products could get them close to those goals.

Rather than just helping them choose products for pilot tests, the SDN Test Suite is designed to identify realistic expectations for performance, scale and functionality to keep end-user companies from wasting time testing products that wouldn’t meet their needs even if they worked perfectly.

Eighteen percent of large corporations already use some form of fabric-based network – a prerequisite for SDN, according to 1,750 IT decision makers polled by British market-research firm Vanson Bourne.

Another 51 percent plan to roll out some Ethernet-based fabric during the next year, even as 91 percent said their IT infrastructures would have to be upgraded to properly support network virtualization, the study showed.

Of course, they may be wrong. An April survey of senior-level network managers conducted by Swedish SDN provider Tail-F systems showed 91 percent were aware of the term SDN, but only 51 percent could pick the right definition of it from a list.

Even telecom providers, who are far less risk-averse about new network technology than end-user companies, are still limiting themselves to SDN evaluations within “contained domains” where they can test and experiment with SDNs rather than building virtualization directly into the core of their networks, according to Infonetics Research founder Michael Howard. “Momentum for more widespread use of SDN and NFV [network function virtualization] is strong,” he said. “Even so, we believe it’ll be many years before we see bigger parts or a whole network controlled by SDNs.”

That’s the point of testing for reality rather than simply for performance, according to Lippis, whose Lippis Enterprises will run a test bed beginning Sept. 30 with approximately 5,000 hypervisors, 100,000 virtual machines and 50 or so servers. The results—and the scripts to make the virtual networks operate—will be released under open-source licenses at ONUG’s fall meeting.

“What I want to find out is which companies are real,” Lippis told SDNCentral.


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