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Open Networking Foundation Predicts That 2016 Will Be the Year of the Northbound Interface

ONF Releases Annual SDN Industry Predictions; Expects Carrier SDN Deployments and Open Source Adoption to Increase in the New Year

SDN AND OPENFLOW WORLD CONGRESS, Düsseldorf, Germany, October 13, 2015 – The Open Networking Foundation (ONF), a non-profit organization dedicated to accelerating the adoption of open Software-Defined Networking (SDN), today unveiled its annual set of networking industry predictions for 2016, predicting that 2016 will be the year of the Northbound Interface (NBI). The predictions were delivered by ONF Executive Director Dan Pitt during his keynote remarks at the SDN & OpenFlow World Congress in Düsseldorf, Germany.

According to ONF leadership, including Executive Director Dan Pitt, the Software Leadership Council (SLC), the Testing Leadership Council (TLC), ONF Research Associates, and the area directors of ONF’s technical communities, 2016 will be an important year for proofs of concept and trials in the NBI. The advancements with NBI applications enable developers to develop code against an open Application Programming Interface (API) and deploy these applications to the network for greater ease of management and efficiency. Additionally, the industry is expected to see increases in carrier SDN deployments and open source adoption in strategically chosen areas of networks worldwide.

“Last year we predicted that open source software would be recognized as a desirable route to network standards with vendors looking to open source communities as a way to reduce development expenses,” said Dan Pitt, executive director of the Open Networking Foundation. “Over the past 12 months we’ve seen an increase in participation from vendors and operators alike in open source organizations helping to propel their development and ensure their deployment into networks. The industry as a whole has seen great advancements in the past year that are delivering on the initial promise of SDN. We are no longer talking about its potential; we are seeing SDN in action. ONF is proud of the progress that has been made this year, and we expect that it will lay the foundation for global advancements in 2016 and beyond.”

Predictions from ONF leadership for SDN and the networking industry in 2016 are below:

2016 is the year of the northbound.

A solid southbound foundation for SDN has been established over recent years, and now is the time for the NBI to shine. NBIs have broad applicability context in the form of popular, open-source SDN controllers; the industry has an understanding based on market experience of what the most important applications need; and the relationship between the northbound and southbound interfaces is clear and systematic. In 2016, ONF predicts that we will see industry agreement on, investment in, and deployment of a small number of popular NBIs. They will apply to specific use cases (such as real-time media) or operating environments (particularly relative to OpenStack). As a result, we will see the emergence of applications using these NBIs to their advantage

Open source will be put to good use.

2015 was a big year for open source in the SDN community. In 2016, we’ll see SDN-based enterprise production applications using the developments that began this year, including open source controllers such as the Open Network Operating System (ONOS), OpenDaylight, and Ryu; Linux networking projects like IO Visor; and the above-mentioned NBIs. ONF embarked on our own open source initiatives this past year with the development of OpenSourceSDN.org, an open source software community and code repository. In the past eight months, the community has completed and released three projects including Atrium 2015/A, a software distribution; Aspen, a real-time NBI for multimedia traffic; and Boulder, an open source intent-based NBI. All told, there are over a dozen projects in the repository, generated by the community (including but not limited to our working groups). We expect to see these frameworks emerge in commercially available products.

Service provider adoption of SDN to expand worldwide.

We saw service provider adoption of SDN begin in 2015, especially in Asia (China, Hong Kong, Korea, and Japan). 2016 will bring about continued and expanded adoption globally because of competitive pressures and now-demonstrated advantages, with OpenFlow enabling carrier SDN beginning with optical transport and packet-optical integration, then extending up to NFV (given its high traction) and into management (as the OSS is finally disaggregated).

The intersection of SDN and Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) rises to the spotlight.

NFV is a great way to get your feet wet with the flexibility of network virtualization, and carrier deployments of NFV got underway strongly in 2015. However, the most important of them require SDN underneath. It’s great to virtualize a computing function and house it in a commodity server in a data center. But to have it effect behavioral changes in the network itself requires SDN, which is based on exactly this model of separated forwarding and control; consider load balancing, ACLs, and even WAN optimization. SDN supports these virtual network functions now. Moreover, using SDN for service function chaining in the control plane – perhaps the hottest demand among NFV users – extends virtualization into the hypervisor and server itself. Thus the full benefits of aligning networking control and forwarding are best achieved with a foundation of SDN, and that requires more than just trading proprietary servers for commodity ones. In 2016, the combination of SDN and NFV will become commonplace in both carrier networks and enterprise clouds.

SDN and NFV lend a hand to 5G progress.

SDN and NFV will play a major role in the progress of 5G leading up to its availability beginning in 2017. In 2016, we believe that the role of SDN in 5G will become clear and may well be a thread that ties the multiplicity of meanings of 5G together.

About ONF
Launched in 2011 by Deutsche Telekom, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Verizon, and Yahoo!, the Open Networking Foundation (ONF) is a growing nonprofit organization with more than 130 members whose mission is to accelerate the adoption of open SDN. ONF promotes open SDN and OpenFlow technologies and standards while fostering a vibrant market of products, services, applications, customers, and users. For further details visit the ONF website at: https://opennetworking.org.