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Openflow Introduction

Originally used to define the communication protocol in software-defined networking (SDN) standards environment, Openflow is considered to be one of the earliest known protocols of its kind. It allows the SDN controller to access the forwarding plane —the part of the router responsible for the decisions pertaining to packets arriving on an inbound interface— of networking devices in both the physical and virtual environment to help cope with the changing business requirements. Conceptualized at Stamford University in 2008, Openflow has been managed ever since by Open Networking Foundation (ONF) which is an organization dedicated to promoting and adopting SDN as well as open standards.

The working of the Openflow technology predominantly consists of three parts: flow tables that are installed on switches, a controller and a proprietary Openflow protocol for the controller to communicate with switches in a secure manner. Initially, the flow tables are set up on top of the switches. The controllers talk to the switches through the protocol in order to levy policies on the flows. In addition, the controller can add, update and remove entries in the flow table, both reactively (in response to the incoming packets) and proactively. The controller is then utilized to via the network that is optimized for special characteristics such as reduced latency, higher speeds or fewer number of hops.

The benefits of adopting Openflow technology is endless. The protocol enables innovation, the outcome of which is it speeds up the process of introduction of newer features and services. In addition, Openflow has successfully proved effective to help optimize performance as well as enhance policy management.

The vendors today proffer varying degrees of user programmability to routers and switches. Hence, the functionality is limited to traffic engineering and management. The Openflow protocol is designed to overcome these issues by making the control function liberated of the hardware. As a result, the protocol is being widely leveraged by some of the leading names in the technology space like IBM, HP,and Google.

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