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CENX to Collaborate with Three Vendors on Open Source SDN/NFV Testing

June 03, 2016

CENX recently announced that it had formed a collaborative relationship with Brocade, Red Hat, and to demonstrate interoperability between the four vendors in CENX’s SDNFV lab. The effort is one of the more recent examples of one segment of the SDN/NFV market pushing interoperability over single-vendor solutions.

Based in Ottawa, Canada, CENX develops the Exanova Service Intelligence orchestrator, which provides workflow management, network analytics, continuous data integrity, SLA management, up-to-date inventory systems, capacity planning, real-time troubleshooting, and service visualization. Perhaps Exanova’s most significant benefit is the way it reduces OPEX through automation of what have traditionally been highly error-prone processes.

The solution in the SDNFV lab combined Exanova with the Brocade vRouter, a virtual router that provides routing, VPN, and firewall services in a scalable environment. Also included was’s RIFT.ware, an SDN/NFV orchestrator that automates VNF deployment. These three components ran together on Red Hat OpenStack.

Central to this testing is the debate over the merits of open source versus proprietary SDN/NFV environments. The testing in the SDNFV lab is effectively a proof-of-concept (PoC) about the interoperability of components from different vendors.

These four vendors are all on the same page because they seek compatibility with standards like OpenStack. Whatever incompatibilities remain after the first go-round are more easily ironed out, because the code behind the software is there for all to see.

A cliché from the olden days of the IT industry once stated that you will never get fired for buying IBM. That adage later applied to Microsoft when it came to PC software and today it applies to Cisco when it comes to networking solutions.

It’s hard to argue against Cisco’s industry dominance, and their proprietary SDN platform, Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI). For many customers, ACI is going to be a viable option, but the disadvantages are glaring. Vendor lock is the most obvious one. If you go with Cisco, you are limited in future purchases to solutions developed by Cisco or vendors that have their blessing. 

An open source approach on the other hand, allows for all kinds of innovation, and you are not permanently stuck with the same vendor for several years.

This is easier said than done, however. In the real world, achieving interoperability when multiple vendors are trying their hardest to do so is not an easily attained goal. EANTC testing of NFV interoperability last fall resulted in only a 64 percent success rate.

That rate only applies to the finite number of scenarios the lab tested. The success rate would likely be much less with more combinations of vendors tested. Obviously there is a long way to go to achieve near-perfect SDN/NFV interoperability, but if innovation is the ultimate goal, then customers have to be patient enough to let the open source vendors work all the kinks out. 

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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