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Interop Feature Articles

May 09, 2011
NEC's OpenFlow-Enabled ProgrammableFlow Network Simplifies Cloud Networks

At Interop 2011 in Las Vegas, IT technologies and network integrator NEC (News - Alert) Corporation of America (NEC) released a radically simplified architecture for data center and cloud networks called ProgrammableFlow network architecture. According to NEC, ProgrammableFlow allows NEC customers to streamline the management of datacenter networks through greater levels of automation while driving down operational costs and time to deliver business services.




ProgrammableFlow leverages the OpenFlow protocol to create software-defined network (SDN) virtualization, allowing NEC customers to deploy, control, monitor, and manage multi-tenant network infrastructure. This architecture provides ongoing investment protection as customers add functionality or upgrade their networks. NEC’s approach simplifies network administration and provides a programmable interface for unifying the deployment and management of network services with the rest of IT infrastructure.

According to NEC, ProgrammableFlow controller software brings the benefits of virtualization to high performance switching. Data centers can deploy, control, monitor, and manage multi-tenant network infrastructure all from a single console. With NEC’s Virtual Tenant Network technology, administrators can build multi-tenant networks in which virtual machine migration is unfettered, enabling rapid scaleout of new applications, balanced workloads, and higher levels of availability. ProgrammableFlow’s centralized control of the network eliminates the need for distributed protocols such as Spanning Tree, reducing network complexity and unlocking the network capacity often made unavailable in existing networks, said NEC. 

Nominated as a finalist for Best of Interop (News - Alert), the ProgrammableFlow switch (PF5240) is a powerful, hybrid technology that can integrate into a legacy environment, or fully function with OpenFlow-enabled benefits behind NEC’s ProgrammableFlow controller. With 48 ports of gigabit and 4 ports of ten gigabit per second connectivity, the PF5240 provides line rate multi-layer switching, maintaining up to 160,000 network “flows” or units of OpenFlow communication. Flow based networking enables organizations to migrate data traffic dynamically for maintenance and power savings. ProgrammableFlow can be deployed in any network topology, increasing network resiliency and capacity, stated NEC. 

The centralized management capability of the ProgrammableFlow management console enables performance optimization of any OpenFlow-enabled network by monitoring end-to-end flows real-time from an intuitive user interface. The console allows visualization of the physical network and of each virtual tenant network. This enables root-cause analysis for proactive management and increased network availability. 

“Today’s announcement by NEC brings a new level of virtualization to the network,” said Jon Oltsik, sr. principal analyst at enterprise strategy group (ESG), in a statement. He added, “The product’s ability to move, externalize, and centralize network control has the potential to cut operating and maintenance costs while enabling new opportunities for flexible network resource pooling.  This is especially important for organizations with massive data centers or burgeoning cloud-based applications." 

Similarly, commented Don Clark, director of business development, NEC, “This release represents to NEC’s customers a product that revolutionizes the way networks are deployed and managed.” “When we co-founded the Clean Slate Program at Stanford University, we believed the research into OpenFlow could usher in a new era of open networking and innovation. ProgrammableFlow, built on OpenFlow and the first commercial product to leverage its benefits, brings intelligence and the ability to centrally and effectively administer business policy to the network. Customers can readily integrate ProgrammableFlow into legacy networks cost-effectively and scale to support the growth of their business,” noted Clark.

NEC said that OpenFlow enables networks to evolve, by giving a remote controller the power to modify the behavior of network devices, through a well-defined forwarding instruction set. NEC is a founding member of the Open Networking Foundation (ONF), a non-profit organization standardizing the OpenFlow protocol.


Ashok Bindra is a veteran writer and editor with more than 25 years of editorial experience covering RF/wireless technologies, semiconductors and power electronics. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Patrick Barnard





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