SDN applications contest: Internet2 offers cash for innovative ideas

Intenet2 has launched a contest that will award up to $10,000 for innovative SDN applications.

There's been a running joke inside the SDN community. Given that the technology enables a wide range of networking applications, we'll inevitably see an iTunes of SDN applications. Download your network virtualization for only 99 cents!

One of the promises of SDN is actually being able to work around that congestion to schedule bandwidth for a specific file transfers (for example). Then you would give the end user the opportunity to prioritize their use of the network.

Wendy Huntoon,
senior director for research and science engagement, Internet2

We're not quite there, but software-defined networking (SDN) applications are emerging. To push the market forward, Internet2, together with Juniper Networks, Brocade and Ciena, will offer grants of up to $10,000 for innovative, open source SDN applications that use OpenFlow. The organization put out an official call for entries this month, and applications must be submitted electronically by June 7.

Internet2, an international consortium of research and education institutions and government organizations, has built a 100 GbE WAN that uses OpenFlow SDN and interconnects dozens of laboratories and universities that need enormous data transfer (think terabit genome sequence transfers).

Internet2's Innovative Application Awards program aims to find production-ready apps that improve movement of data across high-performance networks and can be developed for widespread market use. Although Internet2's SDN focus is on the WAN, this program will not turn away apps written for local area networks.

"I think we have an assumption [applications] will be WAN-based and will have an end-to-end aspect," said Wendy Huntoon, Internet2 senior director for research and science engagement. "But if someone has a really good data center app, we would not preclude that."

There are plenty of challenges in a high-performance WAN that can be tackled by SDN apps, including network congestion, she added.

"In our community, the WAN has an abundance of bandwidth and the congestion is in the regional network or on the campus network," Huntoon said. "One of the promises of SDN is actually being able to work around that congestion to schedule bandwidth for specific file transfers (for example). Then you would give the end user the opportunity to prioritize their use of the network. Right now you can't do that. It's best effort."

More on network applications

Northbound APIs: The rise of network applications

Understanding the application tier of SDN

Why applications define the software-defined network

Since Internet2 is working with Brocade, Juniper Networks and Ciena (which all have equipment in the consortium's network), the group is expecting entries from research engineers, as well as those in the private sector.

For Juniper, getting involved was about casting a wider net for SDN innovation that reaches beyond Juniper's walls, said Mike Marcellin, senior vice president of marketing and strategy at Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Juniper.

While the critical goal of SDN is to centralize management, Marcellin said there is a need for applications that solve a wider range of problems. He expects to see lots of Layer 4-7 services emerge.

"What's going to be the catalyst of SDN are applications with revenue-generating or revenue-accelerating capabilities," he said.

Internet2 encourages entrants to "think outside the box" and to not to be afraid to "pitch a crazy idea."

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