Best of Interop: ProgrammableFlow PF6800 ControllerNEC Corporation of America
As we looked over the more than 130 entries we received for the Best of Interop Awards, we noticed the continuation of last year's trend toward better management products. As always, the simpler things look on the surface, the more work is required behind the scenes. Virtualized and cloud resources can deliver on their promise of faster and more responsive computing and storage only if IT has effective controls to track those dynamic resources--a need that winners such as V3, Citrix, Cisco, and Panzura fill. Likewise, the demand for mobile data access is creating new management problems for IT teams, and winners like Alcatel-Lucent, McAfee, and Cloudpath Networks bring new ideas to mobile.
Picking the "best" product at Interop is always a challenge, and narrowing down our choice for 2012 was no exception. After much discussion, our executive judging team decided that the very first enterprise-class, OpenFlow-compliant network controller--the ProgrammableFlow PF6800 Controller from NEC--delivered the innovation, insight, and advanced thinking expected of a Best of Interop Grand Prize Winner.
The relevance of the PF6800 lies in the growing interest in software-defined networking (SDN), which has the potential to dramatically change networking strategies. Even though Ethernet itself is an open standard, the control plane for switching is not. That means network administrators are pretty much limited by the proprietary management options provided by their hardware vendors.
The key goal of the SDN movement is to upend the network management status quo by abstracting the control plane from the networking hardware, using an open standard like OpenFlow for network control. Doing this has the potential to make networks far more vendor-agnostic, while at the same time modernizing the network definition process, improving visibility, and increasing network performance. But SDN must meet those goals without sacrificing the reliability expected of large networking environments.
The key to a reliable SDN lies in a quality network controller, and the NEC ProgrammableFlow PF6800 Controller is the first generally available, OpenFlow 1.0.0-based network controller, making it feasible to take SDN out of the test lab and into production. OpenFlow is just a few years old, but some big names in the industry, including Google, are already touting SDN's potential, so it's worth more than a passing glance. It takes a company like NEC, with the courage and commitment to introduce enterprise-class products, to give SDN a chance to prove itself in the very difficult and challenging enterprise IT environment.
Of course, there's still a lot of work to be done, and you'll have to do your own research on whether SDNs make sense in your IT operation. But you might someday look back with nostalgia at 2012 as the time when network management started to change forever.
Now, dig into details on the Best of Interop winners in nine categories, with analysis from each of the judging teams. --Steven Hill, Best of Interop lead judge
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